June-July 2017 | Features

Making a meal out of polio

Making a meal out of polio

In three years, the World’s Greatest Meal has raised millions of pounds in the fight against polio. Co-founder Susanne Rea explains how.


The lasting legacy

June-July 2017

Features View All

Susanne Rea has got a goal – and it is so close, that by the time you read this article, the target will have probably been surpassed.

This likeable Australian is one half of the brainchild behind the hugely successful Rotary fund-raiser, the World’s Greatest Meal.

A polio survivor herself, Susanne is hoping that by the time her countryman, Ian Riseley, becomes Rotary International President at the end of June, the dinner party project will have raised a staggering $7.5 million (£6 million).

“The most important thing we are talking about is lives,” explained Suzanne. “Twelve million children have been vaccinated through funding from the World’s Greatest Meal, money which otherwise would not have been there.”

12 million children have been vaccinated through funding from the World’s Greatest Meal, money which otherwise would not have been there.”

Susanne was four-years-old when she woke up one morning and couldn’t get out of bed. Living in Birmingham at the time, she was one of thousands of children in the 1940s who contracted polio and, as a result, spent plenty of time in hospital.

Since then the battle against polio has become personal, and after falling into Rotary at the age of 50, Susanne set about to make a difference to Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign.

Working in partnership with friend Mukesh Malhotra, from the Rotary Club of Hounslow, the pair reached across the miles in 2014. They harnessed the power of social media to encourage Rotarians to hold their own culinary fund-raisers and donate the proceeds to End Polio Now.

The response has been staggering over the past three years, with more than 3,600 events staged in 73 countries across five continents, with 210,000 Rotarians taking part.

“Some meals are worth $10, one was worth $67,000. It doesn’t matter, all events are valued and we would love to have you on board. Even if you are having a cup of tea with a friend, you will be helping End Polio,” reflected Susanne, when she spoke at the Rotary Conference in Manchester in April.

There have been 3,738 events in 74 countries, with over 211,000 participants raising £1.93 million.”

As a result of spearheading the World’s Greatest Meal project, Susanne has been travelling the globe, spreading the gospel and understanding more about Rotary and the fight against polio.

“It is amazing how people from the other side of the world can join together and this is all due, of course, to that wonderful medium Facebook,” she added.

“We are such a visual project through social media, we are a sort of public image machine with Rotarians sending in photographs of their events.

“I have learnt so much since being a Rotarian. I think those of you in Rotary know what I mean, because you are given so many opportunities to do things and be part of a wonderful organisation.”

But even though the end is tangible in the battle against polio, Susanne, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Cairns Sunrise in Queensland, Australia, sounded a cautionary note that Rotarians should not relent in their struggle.

“Little girls and boys everywhere are still in danger,” she warned. “Polio is still a threat, and where there is one case of polio in the world, then we cannot relax.”

For more information visit the World’s Greatest Meal website.


Rotary Magazine