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Williston Rotary Club members received the challenge to have purple pinkies Tueday when Lake City Rotarian John Wheeler spoke to the club about eliminating polio around the world.
Once pandemic, polio is close to being eradicated and Rotary has taken on the project to ensure it is in most of our lifetimes.
Today, the disease, which affects the nervous system and causes paralysis, originates in four countries: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.
“As long as polio is somewhere in the world,” Wheeler said, “it’s only a plane ride to this part of the world.”
Thus far in 2010, 648 cases have been reported, he said, and that compares to 1,008 in 2009.
The Purple Pinkie Project, begun by the Lake City Rotary Club, raises funds to ensure that the polio vaccine is available.
One dollar provides vaccine (cost 60 cents) for one child and with the dollar-for-dollar match from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, three children can be spared from polio, he said.
Volunteers work their way through the villages administering the vaccine and to the way they tally who has received it is by painting the pinkie finger of each child with gentian violet–thus the purple pinkie.
Wheeler encouraged Williston Rotary members to make the Purple Pinkie Program part of their service projects.
By working with schools, particularly elementary schools, children are not only educated about polio but also get their first taste of community service.
“A purple pinkie,” he said, “is the symbol of a life saved.”