Al Bonney Shares Nigerian National Immunization Day

Assistant District Governor Susan Crain introduced Past District Governor Al Bonney, below, with great honor for his long-time commitment and leadership in Rotary and service to the world over the last 20+ years. Al Bonney has had a longtime global outlook over the years through his experience working for 13 different Marriot hotel locations all over the world. Not only has he been well-traveled, he is also a boat builder, banjo player, and lover of art.  Alongside his wife and children, they have made it part of their purpose to live, learn and help others, and eliminating poliomyelitis (polio) from our planet has become a passion and point of service that turns into traveling to foreign countries in order to help solve the long-running issue that some countries still have… existing needs that require hands-on attention.


PDG Al shared the 2017 National Immunization Day (NID) that took place in Nigeria. We were given an insider’s view of problems that still hinder the polio eradication process and the many moving parts involved in getting a NID into action. Al made an effort to explain some elements of polio that may not be known to us, such as, polio is a virus that can only use humans as hosts, meaning animals cannot spread the virus. The polio virus only “paralyzes” 1 in 100 statistically, and many people are carriers who may only experience flu-like symptoms, meanwhile spreading the virus many times unknowingly. One can see how this can be an issue and area of concern for containment.


Over the years, Rotary International along with the World Health Organization, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The C.D.C, and U.N.I.C.E.F have worked together to make the world a polio-free planet. Over the last 10 years working together, over 10 Billion children have been vaccinated which means over 16 Million children are alive and walking who would likely not have been were it not for efforts of NID in various countries around the world. Rotary International’s goal this year is to raise $50 Million which is matched by other organizations, all in effort to help eradicate the world of polio. That breaks down to about $1,500 per Rotary Club worldwide.


Al shared stories about his recent trip to Nigeria with a team of 12. He explained how they were split into groups of two assisted by armed 1guards the entire time along with medical staff and helpers. They wasted no time dosing the vaccines and handing out bed nets to help prevent insects from transmitting Malaria and other diseases. They worked in 100-degree heat throughout the trip and had to keep the vaccines below a temperature of 40 degrees or the vaccine would be damaged or destroyed.   The stories that Al shared just bring to life how big an operation it is to deliver these vaccines to the people. A country must be free of any new cases of polio in order to be considered free and not a threat. Unfortunately, some countries and their religious militants reject any and all Western assistance and make it difficult to help those under certain regimes of authority.


All of these challenges showcase opportunities to help somehow, some way. The group took a tour of the facility where a survivor of polio started making wheelchairs in 2008 and since then has produced and given away over 17,000 wheel-chairs to polio victims who desperately need transportation in order to survive, have ways of working and remain independent. Many who have been affected by polio are literally crawling down the streets in order to get around and make do. The reality of polio and how it affects communities around the world is truly heartbreaking yet full of some hope.  Almost polio-free isn’t good enough and there has been enough success thus far to see a polio-free world as possible is not a faraway reality, it’s an in-our-lifetime reality. Join the movement, Al beckoned us, and inspire others to keep doing good in the world!

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