Final thoughts

P1040253I have been home for 3 days now, decompressing and reflecting on what we have accomplished.  It seems like so long ago that the idea of organizing a polio immunization trip to Nigeria was first conceived.  Actually, it was a long time ago – we had just come back from our India NID trip ( and someone said “where are you going next year?”

So I began the process of establishing relationships among Rotarians in Nigeria to bring this idea to reality.  In this process I worked with some wonderful Nigerian Rotarians to put together a program focused on the second round National Polio Immunization Days in the southeastern part of Nigeria corresponding to Rotary District 9140. In addition to the END POLIO NOW activities we were to be visiting Rotary projects in District 9140.

Once the word got out through our District 6440 website, the PolioPlus office at Rotary International, ROTA (Reach Out To Africa), and social media (primarily LinkedIn), interest in joining our team began to grow.  Our final team consisted of 11 Rotarians and guests from the USA and Sweden.  What a great group!  We shared a life-changing experience together in more ways than one.  What we did changed the lives of the Nigerian children and mothers who saw foreigners coming to their country to place two drops of life-saving vaccine in the mouths of children.  What we did changed the lives of local P1040527aRotarians striving to make their communities better and now know that they have the support and understanding of Rotarians from outside of Nigeria.  And what we did changed our lives forever.  What we saw and what we did are indelibly etched in our minds, hearts and souls.  I believe that we are all better Rotarians and better human beings for this experience.  And those benefits are priceless!

And, to be sure, Nigeria is THIS CLOSE to eradicating polio – and we are proud to be part of that.

I have expressed my thanks privately to the dedicated Rotarians in Nigeria without whom we could never have accomplished this.  I want to publicly thank the members of our Nigeria2013NID team for their friendship, commitment, support, and understanding when things did not going exactly according to plan and intentions (you had to be there to understand!).

Richard Rivkin
Assistant Governor
Rotary District 6440

Rotary District 6440 – Illinois USA
Richard Rivkin – Rotary Club of Northbrook
Helen Rivkin – Rotary Club of Northbrook – guest
Larry Kanar – Rotary Club of Northbrook
Donna Gulley – Rotary Club of Northbrook
Stephen Legge – Rotary Club of Buffalo Grove
Wendy Davis – Rotary Club of Arlington Heights
Carol Wells – Rotary Club of Wilmette Harbor

Rotary District 6950 – Florida USA
Carl Treleaven – Rotary Club of St. Petersburg
Lina Treleaven – Rotary Club of St. Petersburg – guest

Rotary District 2390 – Sweden
Sonja Andersson – Rotary Club of Kävlinge
Staffan Andersson – Rotary Club of Falsterbo-Skytts

Special Thanks To Rotary District 9140 – Nigeria
District Governor Onyebuchi Onuoha
Rotarian Iheanyi Okpala
Rotarian Rose Ugorji


4 Responses to Final thoughts

  1. Donna Lee Gulley says:

    A favorite song of the Nigerian Rotarians, who really like to sing (even more than Highland Park!) is “It’s a Small World After All.” Seeing the trust of the Nigerian mothers who allowed us “white” people to put the drops in their children’s mouths play out the lyrics of this little song. Being with these mothers, their children, the warm and welcoming Nigerian Rotarians and health care workers is convincing evidence of “peace through service.” I am grateful for the two opportunities, provided by District 6440 under the leadership of AG Richard Rivkin, to have experienced National Immunization Days for polio elimination. In India, we experienced “reaching within to embrace humanity” and the PAIN of polio lessening as India was removed from the endemic list at the summit we attended. We join the Nigerians in believing that polio will be kicked out of Nigeria. Next year, as we “engage Rotary, change lives, Pakistan and Afghanistan will increasingly be the focus for eliminating polio. As our international world becomes “a small world, after all,” we cannot let polio NAP.

  2. PDG Carl Treleaven at the Rotary District 6950 President-Elect Training Seminar

  3. Helen Rivkin says:

    As the writer of the blog, I have shared my observations and thoughts as we travelled throughout Southern Nigeria. Boarding the plane, I was reminded of the “Twilight Zone” as though we had visited another dimension. The challenges of travelling in Nigeria were enormous and our team handled them with grace, dignity and pride.

    The Rotarians of Nigeria are a remarkable group of men and women. They are working diligently to better the lives of their fellow Nigerians. They are determined to “kick Polio out of Nigeria”. It can happen and they are so very close. In addition to the challenge of eradicating polio, the Rotarians that we met are dedicated to feeding the hungry, providing clean water, fighting malaria, providing vocational training, and promoting maternal health care.

    These Rotarians took time from their lives to embrace us, make us feel safe, and appreciate our efforts. As I reflect back to our first stop in Owerri, I remember the tears and emotions that I experienced when we sang, “Give me your hand my friend, Rotary is good” and “It’s a small world after all.” We have made friends throughout Nigeria. The Rotarians will remember the support and smiles that we brought with us and the Nigerian mothers and children will remember the men and women who travelled so far to show that we cared. Their faces and smiles will remain etched in my memory.

    On personal note, many many thanks to my husband, Rick, who worked tirelessly to make this dream of participating in NID Nigeria happen.

  4. Ward Peters and Jean Ann Ballinger says:

    Greetings to one and all,
    I’ve just read your Nigeria blog and feel compelled to simply reply that you all are angels. Angels of support. Angels of compassion. Angels of mercy. Simply, angels. Clearly you all took away lasting memories and left indelible impressions with all who saw your grace filled actions.
    Best to you all,
    Ward and Jean Ann

    [note – Ward and Jean Ann were members of the NID team to India in 2012]

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