Reaffirming its pledge to eradicate polio on the occasion of its 104th anniversary in early 2009, Rotary International clubs strove to raise polio awareness through a number of symbolic, visual modes of communication and activism.
Rotary illuminated iconic landmarks on several continents such as the Roman Coliseum, the Sydney Opera House, Cape Town (South Africa)'s Table Mountain, the United Nations Building (New York), and the British Parliament with the "End Polio Now" logo during the week of February 23 2009. In Scotland, several historic buildings, including Culzean Castle, were briefly illuminated with the End Polio Now message on consecutive nights. The chair of The Rotary Foundation explained, "[b]y illuminating these historic landmarks with our pledge to end polio, Rotary clubs are announcing to the world that we will not stop until the goal is achieved....We hope people everywhere will see these words - either in person or through the media - and join with us and our partners in this historic effort to rid the world of polio once and for all."
In addition to the landmark displays, Rotary clubs worldwide have planned a variety of polio eradication awareness and fundraising activities surrounding February 23. Here are a few examples:
- In the United Kingdom, Purple Pinkie Week involved Rotarians soliciting donations in exchange for a spot of purple dye on each donor's pinkie finger - thereby sparking curiosity, information sharing, and conversation. (A purple dot on the pinky is the sign that Rotary volunteers and health workers in developing countries have provided a child with the oral polio vaccine). To gain public support for Rotary's initiative, Rotary clubs held events throughout the week including fundraising activities at universities, painting the pinkies of shoppers and commuters in towns and railway stations, schools wearing something purple, collections outside supermarkets, quiz nights, etc.
- Rotary clubs working with the Singapore postal service arranged for the release of official postage stamps carrying the polio eradication theme and other Rotary messages.
- In a hands-on show of Rotary's commitment to end polio, a team of 12 South Korean Rotary members, accompanied by Korean journalists, travelled to India to help immunise thousands of children.
- Participants in a cycle rally that began in January 2009 donned "Rotary - End Polio Now" jerseys and caps, covering a distance of 300 km. On their way they distributed 25,000 leaflets by stopping them at schools, colleges, hospitals, shopping malls, etc. The local electronic media and dailies covered the event the next day.
- Rotarians participated in the Mumbai Marathon 2009 wore tee-shirts displaying polio messages as they ran to pledge their support towards the fight against polio.
Polio eradication has been Rotary's top priority since 1985. In that time, polio cases have fallen from 350,000 a year to a recorded 1,600 in 2008. According to Rotary International, approximately 5 million children have been spared from disability, and 250,000 deaths have been averted.
Emails from Nima Chodon to The Communication Initiative on March 6 and March 12 2009; Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) website; and the Purple Pinkie Week website.