By 1979, polio in the United States had virtually been eliminated, but people in seven African and South Asian nations continue to suffer from the disease. In an effort to combat this global health threat, a group of Yalies recently hosted a Polio Awareness and Fundraising Week.
The Rotaract Club of Yale College organized a benefit concert Friday night at Dwight Hall. Twenty people attended the concert, which served as the finale to the group’s series of events including a Monday public-health and polio discussion led by Yale World Fellow Ali Sindi and Associate Professor Nora Groce, a Wednesday bake sale, and two screenings of “Frida,” a film about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who suffered from polio as a child.
Rotaract Club President Michelle de Saram ’05 said all of the week’s profits will be donated to Rotary International’s Polio Plus campaign. The campaign, founded in 1985, has vaccinated nearly two billion people worldwide. Its goal is to completely eradicate polio by 2005.
While the campaign has raised $88.5 million for vaccinations, de Saram said much more money is needed.
“There’s a funding gap of about $275 million,” she said.
For that reason, the Rotaract Club of Yale College decided to make Polio Awareness and Fundraising Week one of their main activities this year, de Saram said. She said the events were “quite successful.”
The Friday concert featured three student musicians and the African dance troupe Konjo.
Audience member Paa Kwesi Imbeah ’05, who is originally from Ghana, said he had personal reasons for coming to the concert.
“In my own country we have polio,” he said. “Growing up it was a huge problem. So, I feel the bond.”
Imbeah said he thought the need to contribute towards improving life in other nations was “sort of sidelined” at Yale because of what he perceived as students’ focus on New Haven-centered community service.
Ranidu Lankage ’05, a South Asian pop star who signed with Sony, performed three songs at the concert. He sang two from his old album, “Oba Magamai,” or “You’re Only Mine,” and one from his not-yet-released album, “Divipura,” or “All My Life.”
Lankage said he was happy to perform at the concert.
“It was a good cause, and I wanted to support Rotary Club,” he said.Ê”People should — contribute towards bettering life in other places.”
Rotaract member Lara Berlin ’07 said she had hoped more people would attend the concert.
“But I think it went pretty well,” she said.
Rotaract Director of International Service Jane Pek ’05 said the event was a success, but she regretted the group “didn’t have time to publicize” the concert as much as she felt they should have.
“The turnout was lower than we had hoped,” she said.
The concert’s first performance was by Sarah Hammel MUS ’05. A cellist, Hammel is also a Rotary ambassadorial scholar.
The six members of Konjo followed Hammel’s performance with an ancient Mali dance expressing celebration and honor.
For the third performance, Donna Ong ’06 played two modern pieces on the guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument.
Carmen Valache ’07 said she was impressed with the event.
“I didn’t even know this instrument existed before coming here,” she said. “It is so gorgeous.”
Previous Yale Rotaract Club fund-raising efforts included Krispy Kreme doughnut study breaks, which the club used as an opportunity to foster discussion about Rotaract and Polio Plus.