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Rotary offers opportunities, hope around world

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Ethiopian trip by Whistler residents part of effort to wipe out polio

Bernie and Bob Morton have just returned from an extraordinary mission in Ethiopia and perhaps the most outstanding aspect of their trip is how accessible these kinds of adventures are to the public.

The Mortons were given the opportunity by Rotary International to travel to villages and immunize more than 300 children against polio.

For 10 days the Mortons assisted local nurses vaccinate children against the deadly disease in a region where the average annual income is $100 US.

"I found the most amazing thing was how welcoming everyone was," Bernie said.

"Most families never had much but they would invite you into their home and put out stools for you and just make you feel welcome."

This is not the first time the Mortons have travelled overseas to provide aid and spread good will, but their experiences would not have been possible without Rotary.

Rotary is perhaps best known for its student programs but Bernie, who is a district trainer, said Rotary provides wonderful opportunities to all kinds of people, including those who are not members.

"Everything’s on www.rotary.org , but I should explain that before we went to Ethiopia we did a trip to South Korea and there were four members of our team who were not members of Rotary," Bernie said.

"I was the team leader on that trip to Korea but the other four members were not because it was a trip designed for introducing people into Rotary."

Rotary was founded 99 years ago as a volunteer organization with the purpose of initiating humanitarian programs. There are now Rotary clubs in 165 countries with more than 1.2 million members.

Rotary’s flagship program is its effort to protect children against polio, with the goal of ending the disease throughout the world by 2005.

Bernie said that in addition to aid programs, Rotary consistently organizes trips to help people expand their knowledge about their chosen profession and promote good will between cultures.

"Our Korean trip was a group study exchange to Pusan in South Korea, it went for four weeks and it was all paid for through Rotary," she said.

"These trips are about spreading good will and fellowship around the world but the main purpose of this trip was to get people between 25 and 40 to learn about his or her profession in another country."

"There was an interview process to pick a team with a good mix of professions as well as a good mix of personalities who had the ability to travel hard; because it’s fun, but you travel hard."

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