How to plan a virtual World Polio Day event

David F. Andrews, three-time past president, Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood, Ontario, Canada, and chair of District 7070’s Public Image Committee, shares how Rotary community planned a successful virtual World Polio Day event.

After many years of celebrating World Polio Day with proclamations, updates from Rotary and health leaders, and flag raising ceremonies, the 10 Rotary clubs in District 7070 (Ontario, Canada) took a different course in 2018. The event, which combined an in-person gathering with a livestream presentation showcasing a new global classroom, is now serving as a great model as we approach holding our first World Polio Day live event in a COVID-19 world.

Just three years ago, Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology, a post-secondary school in Oshawa, Ontario, constructed a new Centre for Collaborative Education, which included a Global Classroom. The center allows students to learn from, and share with, students and experts from around the world in real-time. The class brings cultures from around the world together to share information about each other’s culture and countries. The clubs of the Durham Region all helped provide funds for the creation of the center and global classroom.

To hold the combined event in 2018, the two host Rotary clubs of Oshawa and Oshawa-Parkwood took the following actions:

- Received the buy-in from the other nine Rotary clubs and then asked the mayors to proclaim 24 October as World Polio Day in all eight communities and in the whole of Durham Region.

- Asked the mayors and the regional chair John Henry (also an active Oshawa Rotarian) to present proclamations to the Rotary clubs and to the district governor on our World Polio Day event, live in the Global Classroom.

- Arranged for our local member of Parliament of Canada and our member of Parliament for the Province of Ontario and the President of Durham College, to address words of welcome in the Global Classroom.

- Arranged for End Polio Now flag raising ceremonies in each community.

- Contacted Durham College officials and professor Lon Appleby of the Global Classroom and pitched the idea of an event that would be livestreamed to Rotarians, students and the public world wide.

- Utilized resources provided by Rotary to stream Rotary’s World Polio Day online global update.

- Arranged for Dr. Bob Scott, the immediate past chair of Rotary International’s PolioPlus Committee to give a live update, and interview Aseefa Bhutto (daughter of the former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto) along with Rotary Foundation Trustee and chair of the Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee, Aziz Memon.

- Arranged for a presentation by a Durham College student who told the in-person audience and livestream audience about growing up in Pakistan and receiving the oral polio vaccine as a young child. 

- Arranged for a polio survivor from the Durham Region to speak about her life with polio.

- Promoted the event through social media and local media outlets.

The 2018 event was so successful that the clubs mirrored it for World Polio Day in 2019, with new guest speakers Dr. Tunji Funsho, chair of Rotary’s Nigeria PolioPlus Committee, and past Rotary President Jonathan Majiyagbe. 

Now, our 2020 version of World Polio Day in the Durham Region will be with the same 10 Rotary clubs, and this time, we will include video versions of the proclamations, and flag raising, and have a live remote presentation by Dr. Bob Scott, who will be talking via the internet, with Past RI President Ian H.S. Riseley, live from Australia, about his experiences with PolioPlus and Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio from the world. The entire event will be broadcast “live” from the Durham College Global Classroom.

We encourage our fellow Rotary members around the world to use Rotary’s World Polio Day resources to plan and hold an event to honor the day and join District 7070’s livestream event on 22 October. It is your partnership in our top priority that makes this day a success and will fuel our eventual eradication of polio. 

Are you taking action to end polio this World Polio Day? Register your participation on the End Polio Now website.

Local civic and government officials and representatives from ten Rotary clubs at the 2019 World Polio Day event. Photo by David Andrews.


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