Plympton Rotary Club continued its almost annual tradition of walking away with awards from the Rotary South West Peninsula District Conference at this years’ conference held in Newquay recently but there was an even bigger surprise for one of their members at the end of the awards ceremony.
This year the club walked away with awards for the Best Club Website in the District, Best Newsletter and Best Rotary Service Photograph as well as picking up a banner for being the second biggest donator to the Rotary Foundation – Rotary’s own charity – in the past year.
Club member Clare Thomas was also recognised for her contribution to Youth Service in the district through her work on various youth competitions such as Rotary’s Young Musician competition. But there was one unlisted award that was kept for last which was a surprise for past club president Darren Hands.
Australian Rotarian Noel Trevaskis, the Rotary International President’s Representative at the conference was delighted to present Darren with a “Rotary Regional Service Award for a Polio Free World”, recognising personal service towards the goal of Polio eradication. One of only ten such awards which are made in each region per year (this region covering the whole of Europe).
District Governor Stephen Lay had nominated Darren for this award following his work over the past few years advocating Rotary’s efforts toward the eliminating of Polio in the world.
Part of his efforts over the past few years have included a local variation to the Rotary ThisClose to Ending Polio images featuring among others, Graham Dawe (and past players at Plymouth Albion RFC), Jon Rudd, Ruta Meilytyte (and others at Plymouth Leander Swimming Club), Olympians Helen Glover, Tom Daley and Tonia Couch, BBC presenters David FitzGerald, Kawser Quamer and Aysha Iqbal, celebrity chefs James Tanner and Peter Gorton, MP’s Gary Streeter and Johnny Mercer, as well as other local personalities such as Commonwealth Games Gold medalist Natalie Melmore, Mark Ormrod, Antony Jinman and many others.
Darren has played a major part in organising local Rotary clubs to take up the national organisations’ “Purple4Polio” campaign and brought together several of the Plymouth based clubs to plant 20,000 crocus bulbs last October on the grass bank (the one with the anchor flower bed) by the University of Plymouth facing North Cross Roundabout. Other clubs not just in Devon & Cornwall have taken on similar efforts but in Plymouth, that grass bank in the next week or two should be turned into a sea of purple.
As Darren explained, the purple crocus represents the “purple pinkie”, the little finger of children in those countries where immunisation programmes take place which are dyed purple when they have been given the Polio vaccine.
Through Rotary’s efforts and those of its partner organisations (the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Organisation), the world is now almost Polio free. When Rotary started their Polio Plus programme in 1985, 350,000 children where paralyzed from Polio each year. As at the beginning of March, there had been just 3 cases reported.
President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland Eve Conway said: “The world stands on the brink of an historic milestone and we must focus our efforts on the final push to eradicate this disease to ensure a polio-free world.
“We are now so close to finishing the job with only two remaining countries where polio is still endemic, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Just as the images with local personalities that Darren has helped create show, we truly are ThisClose to Ending Polio.”
(from a press release)