Meet Ramesh Ferris, polio survivor and polio eradication activist.
Also a guy who hand-cycled 4400 miles across Canada to raise awareness for the cause.
Ramesh contracted polio in his native India at just six months of age. His mother, lacking access to rehabilitation, gave him up for adoption, and he was taken in by a Canadian Anglican bishop and raised in Yukon, Canada. Dedicated to giving back, Ramesh returned to his native country in 2002 to reunite with his birth mother and to visit the orphanage where he lived.
Inspired by the hardships faced by polio survivors in India, Ramesh launched Cycle to Walk and began his epic cross-continental journey in 2008.
Having run a few marathons and tried to raise a bit of money for a good cause in the process myself, I have a tiny idea of the volume of work and effort, over and above the physical training, that it takes to make something like this successful.
And successful it was. Ramesh raised over $300,000, granted over 350 media interviews and spoke at 200 events along his route. He raised his own profile and the profile of his cause to the point that he was able to get audiences and advocate for polio eradication with Canadian PM Stephen Harper, Queen Elizabeth and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari.
His advocacy took him back to India last year for the historic India Polio Summit where is was announced that polio had been eliminated from that country and it was removed from the polio endemic list.
But that doesn’t mean that Ramesh has stopped advocating for polio eradication. Polio still exists in India’s neighbor, Pakistan and in Nigeria and Afghanistan as well. As Ramesh himself said, “We are truly on our final 1% – but we cannot stop there. There should never be another child born who will need to crawl around on cut-up pieces of tire.”
If we listen to Ramesh and others like him, and keep the pressure on, we can eradicate polio in our lifetime.
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This story comes from Rotary International and is part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Go to www.shotatlife.org/impact to learn more.
Follow Ramesh on Twitter: @rameshferris