Isle Rotarians in Africa aid polio vaccine effort
Four Hawaii Rotary members are part of an international group in Ethiopia immunizing children against polio.
In an interview before the group left Oct. 21, Ross Rolirad, a member of the Kapolei Rotary Club, said he did a similar thing in India about 1 1/2 years ago and wanted to do it again.
"It's such a rewarding experience...once you're holding those babies up to 5 years old and putting two drops (of vaccine) in the mouth, knowing you're taking part in eradicating polio from the face of the earth."
They will go house to house and village to village to give children drops of oral polio vaccine.
Donald Lehman, from the Lahaina Rotary Club, said he remembers "all the fear out there" before the Salk vaccine was developed.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is an infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in hours. It can strike anyone but mostly affects children under age 5.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.
Since it began in 1988, the program has reduced incidence of polio by more than 99 percent.
Rolirad, engineering supervisor at Tesoro Refinery and operator of three Curves Fitness Centers with his wife, Sharon, said he's taking a leave of absence to volunteer for the Ethiopia trip.
He said they'll be spending three or four days "out in the bush, so to speak, staying in the local places. I have no idea what we're getting into there. It's exciting. It's adventure, doing something so good."
Rolirad said he will also meet with people from World Vision while in Ethiopia because his Rotary Club is trying to start a project to send books from Hawaii to Africa.
The state Department of Education discards books after three years and Africa can use them up to 10 years old, he said.
The Rotarians will be in Ethiopia until Nov. 5.
Other members of the group are Rosalynn Cooper and Nichole Shimamoto, both with the Metropolitan Honolulu Rotary Club.