Citizen of the World
Of the four million people living in Lebanon, more than a quarter are Syrian refugees. So when Michel Jazzar heard about the reappearance of polio in Syria in October 2013, he and other Rotarians in Lebanon were quick to realize the impact it could have on their own country, which has been polio-free for more than a decade.
Unlike in Jordan, where refugees reside in massive camps, in Lebanon, they live among the general population. “They are moving on the same roads, using the same hospitals, learning in the same schools,” says Jazzar, a member of the Rotary Club of Kesrouan. He helped coordinate Rotary’s participation in recent National Immunization Days in Lebanon, using billboards and television, radio, and newspaper advertising supported by two PolioPlus Partners grants totaling US$50,000.
Although Jazzar has been a Rotary member for more than 30 years – he’s also the Rotary representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia – he says the moment that made him a Rotarian was when he administered his first dose of polio vaccine.
“A Rotarian is someone who will give a drop of vaccine to a child and will never see this kid again, but who is sure this kid will be saved,” he says. “We are citizens of the world. We believe that humanity is one.”
– Diana Schoberg
PROVIDING CHILDREN IN LEBANON WITH A POLIO-FREE FUTURE
Michel Jazzar, Rotary International Representative to the United Nations
I participated in the second round of the polio vaccination campaign that took place in Lebanon between 6 and 10 December 2013, organized by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and WHO with the support of almost 200 volunteers from Rotary and Rotaract Clubs. The expansive awareness campaign was approved by the International Polio Committee and funded by the Rotary Foundation.
The vaccination campaign was really one of the most intense moments in my years of being a Rotary member. I’ve experienced many intense and high-pressure situations from the day I was appointed as a Lebanon Polio Committee member. I handled the polio virus outbreak in Syria and its neighboring countries and most recently, dropped two drops of medicine into a child’s mouth to vaccinate him against polio.
The vaccination campaign took place on 6th of December, 2013 in my village, Meziara, which is nestled on a mountain in North Lebanon. The local community has such great respect for our organization that the municipal council named one of village’s streets “Rotary International” in 2001 as a gesture of thanks following the donation of an ambulance and garbage collection vehicle.
It is at Meziara that I truly became a Rotarian despite my 36 years of membership in Rotary and Rotaract Clubs. Taking part in a vaccination campaign is a humanitarian act that you do with pride, confidence, belonging, recognition, citizenship, love, but also commitment and engagement. Two drops, I mean really two drops, are enough to make you feel noble and recognized in the world of true human solidarity. In few moments you realize the vision of the Polio Plus program – the eradication of polio.
When I left the two schools where the vaccinations took place, I heard the cries of joy from kids playing in the yards, all happy, safe and carefree for tomorrow. They have been immunized against polio through Rotary members and people of good will around the world.
Something that really struck me during the vaccination campaign was when a 5-year-old boy asked me with fear in his eyes, “Is it a needle?” When I showed him the vaccine’s bottle, he smiled, opened his mouth with confidence, swallowed the two drops, looked at me tenderly and said “Thank you.”
Through Rotary, kids are immunized and are able to enjoy life without fear of contracting the crippling disease of polio. Through Rotary I will remember the most beautiful moments of human solidarity. I invite you to live and share these outstanding and remarkable Rotary moments.
February 26, 2014