Our Rotary district held its annual conference this past weekend in the beautiful Lafayette Hill, right outside of the city. A group of us represented Rotaract Philly among the many other Rotary and Rotaract clubs in District 7450 and got the chance to learn about very important issues Rotary is getting involved in.
The day included two very interesting lectures: one on clean water initiatives and another on efforts to stem child slavery. We were first introduced to an organization called Water Missions International, which undertakes clean water projects in 49 developing countries, mainly throughout Latin America and Africa. The organization builds clean water systems for public use that provide a safe alternative to the contaminated water that has plagued communities with disease.
After some time set aside for mingling with Rotarians/Rotaractors from other clubs, we saw a very moving presentation on child slavery. It was very sobering to realize that the phenomenon was so endemic throughout the modern world, and that the United States was not immune. The lecture ended on a positive note, however, with a segment on rescue organizations that were making headway in stemming back the tide.
The most inspiring, and most awaited, presentation of the day was given by Ramesh Farris on polio eradication. Born in India, Farris had contracted polio at six months of age and was paralyzed from the waist down. Farris’ mother, unable to provide the resources her son would need, gave him up to an orphanage. He was then adopted by a Canadian family, after initial opposition from the Canadian government based on the fear that Farris would place too much strain on the country’s healthcare system.
The presentation was moving from the very beginning, when Farris crawled through piercing silence from the back of the auditorium to the stage and began to tell his story while sitting on the floor. The discomfort quickly gave way to disbelief and cheer as Farris rose up and began to walk across the stage. In Canada, Farris had undergone numerous surgeries, eventually allowing him to walk with the help of leg braces. He has been traveling across the world recounting his experience, in the hope that there will one day be no more “crawlers.”
All in all, the conference proved to be, as always, an immeasurably enriching and inspirational day. I would greatly recommend that every Rotaractor try to go at some point. You don’t want to miss out!