Milton-Freewater Rotary group views polio eradication documentary

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As Rotary International has a program dedicated to eradicate polio, Milton-Freewater Rotary Club members watched "The Final Inch," a 38-minute documentary by Irene Taylor Brodsky, during their Jan. 12 meeting.

The film follows Munzareen Fatima, a UNICEF volunteer in India, who visited 446 households to convince them to have their children inoculated against polio. While crossing into the numerous cultures and religious areas of the city, she encountered an array of attitudes toward the program. A high percentage were very cooperative, but there are still some groups claiming it all to be a trick by the United States to create problems for the country.

The movie also documents Kashmir native Dr. Ashfaq Bhat’s travels into remote areas to vaccinate children. The challenge is keeping the vaccine at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit in a country where the average temperature is closer to 100 degrees.

"It is an eye-opening video into life in the poor areas of India. Today the world is nearly 98 percent polio-free as a result of the program, the cooperation of all the countries of the world, an army of volunteers to take the vaccine into remote areas, and the World Health Organization to monitor the success," said Rotary member Robby Robbins. The movie is a current Academy Award nominee.

Rotary’s involvement in polio eradication began in 1979 to provide and help deliver polio vaccine to six million children of the Philippines. It was the first project of the new Health, Hunger, and Humanity program. In the next four years, similar five-year commitments were approved for Haiti, Bolivia, Morocco, Sierra Leone and Cambodia.

In the early 1980s, Rotary began planning for the most ambitious program in its history — to immunize all of world’s children against polio.

The plan required collaboration with international, national and local health agencies. With the advice and support of the late Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine, Rotary established its PolioPlus program in February 1985, Rotary’s 80th anniversary.

Rotary’s pledge of $120 million to fund its PolioPlus program was announced in October 1985 at the 40th anniversary of the United Nations. Within three years, Rotarians had more than doubled their fundraising goal, donating $247 million.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is recognized worldwide as a model of public and private cooperation in pursuit of a humanitarian goal.

At the 2005 Rotary International Convention in Chicago, it was announced that Rotary had nearly attained the goal. Only four countries had not been certified polio-free by WHO. Today the leaders of those countries, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan have joined WHO and Rotary to get the job done. They have been in the media spotlight administering the vaccine to local children and promoting the program.

Polio eradication remains a primary focus for Rotary.

A total commitment of $355 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a commitment of another $100 million by 30 June 2012 by Rotary will continue to support activity to complete the work.

For more information, call 541-938-5518. The CD is available for any group interested in watching it. It is also available from a variety of sources at www.thefinalinch.org/

The club’s outbound Rotary youth exchange student Grant Hendly attended his first indoctrination course recently, members of the club found out at the Jan. 12 meeting. Grant would like to spend his year abroad in Denmark, Finland or the Czech Republic, but won’t know which will be his final destination until later this year.

Rotary members were introduced during the meeting to Mike Phelps, who will be doing his rural training here for five weeks. He’s a third-year medical student at Oregon Health & Science University.

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The Walla Walla Heat Amateur Athletic Union fifth-grade boys basketball team took first place in the annual Snake River Shoot Out tournament Jan. 22-24 in Lewiston. The Heat faced teams from Post Falls, Pullman, Lewiston and Clarkston and finished with a 5-0 record. The Heat’s next tournament will be at the Walla Walla YMCA Feb. 13-14.

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The economic downturn has hit close to home, as many around here can attest.

Among the non-profit agencies facing budgetary challenges is Blue Mountain Heart to Heart.

About a year ago, its board met in retreat for three intense days to consider whether the agency could possibly continue, the Jan. 14 Heartbeat newsletter reported.

With the near collapse of the nation’s financial system, the expectation was that all non-profit organizations would be looking at rough times.

"We learned that federal and state support was being nearly halved," the newsletter reported.

In one setback after another, their executive director resigned for personal reasons and they had to reduce their staff. They looked at the impact closing BMH2H would have on clients. In the evaluation, they decided services such as syringe exchange, vital for fighting Hepatitis C; testing; personal care; and prevention work would be substandard, non-existent or cost too much for clients for their agency to step aside.

"So – we must continue our work and we must secure the financial security of the agency. Failure? Not an option. The chance of complete success? Hardly guaranteed. The odds, in fact, were decidedly against us."

The newsletter notes that through support given by "myriad elements of our community—we have made it through."

Whitman College student groups that heard about the situation subsequently acted on BMH2H’s behalf.

Theatre Sports raised $1,000 in a 24-hour marathon of comedy mayhem. A Battle of the Bands with Whitman students and faculty members raised another $1,000. Later, a wine auction Sigma Chi fraternity held brought in $1,600 and the support of diverse donors from Oregon, California and elsewhere.

Pasco’s Club Out & About gave a benefit featuring performers from around the Northwest. They donated talent, time and travel expenses, which brought in $1,000.

Funds have also come from the Congregational, Episcopal, Catholic, Lutheran and Jewish congregations and members of many others.

"We owe huge thanks to these organizations which, while fighting their own budget constraints, still found ways to provide funding for BMH2H programs: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, MAC AIDS, NASEN, PRIDE Foundation, Roche Corp., Ryan White Program, Schering Plough Corp., TIDES Foundation, United Way of Walla Walla and Walla Walla Community Foundation. Walla Walla and Columbia Counties provided support for Promotores de Salud. "Together with our other supporters and most especially together with each of you, we have made it through," the newsletter notes.

"Having ‘retreated to the front,’ the battle has been won but the war goes on. HIV/AIDS and Hep C are indefatigable enemies.

"Our youth, if left uninformed, remain at very high risk. Hep C meanwhile silently goes about its business and is sweeping the land. We need you more than ever, and together, we can make it through."

For more details, contact BMH2H, P.O. Box 40, Walla Walla, WA 99362; 509-529 4744; e-mail info@bluemountainheart.org; or online see www.bluemountainheart.org

In-kind donations of extra food, toiletries, blankets and small appliances are welcome. At the moment, BMH2H needs a powerful used upright vacuum cleaner for the office.

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Walla Walla-Sasayama Sister City Committee will begin orientation for students and chaperones interested in visiting Sasayama, Japan, in October. The first orientation meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday at the Pioneer Park Garden Center.

Each year since 1994, The Walla Walla-Sasayama Sister City Affiliation Committee has conducted a two-week home stay in Sasayama. Students and adults can learn about Japanese culture and customs and develop relationships of friendship and understanding.

Participants can visit schools, museums, cultural sites and business facilities in Sasayama and its environs. Individual interests can also be explored.

Students and adults stay with host families, wherein they can observe daily life in a Japanese home setting, participate in family activities and enjoy foods of everyday living.

Friendships developed from homestays have a lasting impact upon visitors’ relationships and understanding of the sister city.

Students currently in eighth through 11th grades may participate in the program. Parents of the students are required to attend the meetings. Adults interested in participating as chaperones are encouraged to attend. The series of meetings occur monthly from February through May.

For more information attend the meeting or call Robert Keatts, Walla Walla-Sasayama Sister City Affiliation Committee chairman, at 525-0049 or e-mail robert_wwscc@yahoo.com

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Rob Sesser a member of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, is working with Habitat for Humanity of Mobile (Ala.) County to provide construction support for its new rehabilitation, repair and weatherization programs in that area, from Jan. 13-Feb. 25.

His group covers a 10-state region and his own team has mainly been working in building new houses.

"We’re doing a lot of siding. We work with construction experts, and train on the job, including roofing and building soffit. It’s been fun with the projects, doing more practical things and learning on the job." They previously worked at a YMCA camp in Michigan and will head to another location once they’ve completed the projects in Mobile County.

Rob hails from Walla Walla. He’s part of an 11-member NCCC team serving out of the North Central Region campus in Vinton, Iowa. During their six-week stay, NCCC team members serve as leaders to volunteers received during winter months, and to a sustainable work force aiding those affected by Hurricane Katrina or the economic crisis and improving neighborhoods by revitalizing local homes.

Mobile County Habitat’s goal is to finish 41 projects in new construction and rehabilitation, and to begin repair and weatherization programs. Such tasks as siding, painting, roofing and carpentry are being accomplished.

Rob began serving with NCCC on Oct. 14 at the North Central Region campus in Vinton, Iowa. He is the son of George and Cathy Sesser of Walla Walla. The non-profit Christian ecumenical housing ministry Habitat for Humanity has built more than 200,000 houses in more than 79 countries since its establishment in 1976. Through donations of time, materials and investment, Habitat houses are sold to families at no profit, financed with affordable no-interest loans.

Outside of their work with Habitat for Humanity, the team spends time volunteering at local organizations. During the most recent holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the team volunteered with the Dumas Community Center. During the national day of service, the team re-shingled a leaky roof, repaired a wheelchair ramp and cleaned up the yard for a local Mobile resident.

Rob said he’s proud of his work with NCCC. "Ever since I heard about NCCC I was really hoping for a project down South where I would be working with Habitat. It’s pretty exciting to be down here learning to build houses and helping out the community members who need a safe home."

Rob’s 10-month program started in October goes through August, Rob said.

"My room and board are paid. I get to see the country, and I like to do community service."

After his stint is completed, Rob is interested in becoming a team leader with AmeriCorps.

His friend, Jessie Bloom of Walla Walla, did the program a year before him, inspiring Rob to apply.

The 24-year-old graduated from Walla Walla High School in 2004 and earned a bachelor’s in visual communications web/print graphic design in 2008 from Seattle Pacific University.

AmeriCorps NCCC, administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, provides opportunities to members, who work to improve the environment, enhance education, increase public safety, help with disaster relief and assist in other unmet human needs.

NCCC members must be 18-24 and complete at least 1,700 hours of service during the 10-month program. For information about applying to AmeriCorps NCCC, call 1-800-942-2677 or visit the Web site at www.americorps.gov/nccc.

Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.
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