For many years Geelong East Primary School students have participated in the Rotary Junior Community Award (RJCA) program. In this year of COVID-19, students found it impossible to conduct a hands-on community project and instead undertook to research polio and Rotary International’s effort to eradicate the disease.
 
This initiative arose from a suggestion by Rotarian Gary Newton, a polio survivor, and Vice-President of Polio Australia.
 
On 9th December 2020, Gary was invited to the school to speak to the RJCA students about polio and present a certificate of excellence for the best polio project.
 
To his surprise the teachers had arranged for all Grades 5 and 6 students to hear his story.
 
The students and their teachers were captivated from the start and listened intently as Gary told of contracting polio at the age of 15 months, causing him to be isolated in an infectious disease hospital in Melbourne, with no parents allowed to visit for 32 days. It was awful!
He explained that when the polio virus hit the community, schools, swimming pools and other community spaces were locked down, much like the corona virus restrictions today.
 
Gary didn’t attend school until the age of seven and then it was at the Yooralla Hospital School for Crippled Children. He didn’t attend a ‘normal school’ until he was 15 years of age.
 
After finishing school, he found employment in a career he had always wanted: as a radio announcer.
 
Gary urged the students to always pursue their dreams and never give up.
 
At the end of his presentation Gary was inundated with questions.
 
Finally, he presented the Certificate of Excellence (shown in picture) to Lexiar Tanga who was cheered enthusiastically by her classmates.
Gary enjoyed the experience and reflected that, ‘’It’s always great knowing you’re making an impact, hopefully positive, on growing minds’’.
 
Rotarians - Inspiring Young People