Cliff introduced Rotarian Gary Newton to speak about polio. Gary then introduced guest speaker Ken Hutt. Gary thanked the clubs for the opportunity to speak, and acknowledged DG John Clue and Heather. Gary spoke of his connection between Ken and himself, and also their connection with Rotary and how they could promote the ongoing campaign to eradicate polio.
In Australia, there are still about 40,000 polio survivors who are now suffering late effects of polio and post polio syndrome. Polio Australia assists these people in a number of ways. To promote polio eradication and support, Ken and Gary continue to travel and speak about polio, its effects, and the importance of Rotary continuing its pursuit to eradicate polio.
Gary spoke of some of the challenges of people with children who had polio including a poor family in India who gave up their child for adoption in the hope for a better life in Canada. Gary played a short video which highlighted how polio had affected many people. This included noting that many polio sufferers wear shorts, as this highlights the effects of polio and the impact it has had on people who have suffered from polio. Hence tonight, Gary was wearing shorts to reinforce awareness.
In introducing Ken, Gary noted that at 62 years young, Ken was here to speak about his Mt Everest paragliding challenge.
Ken’s Paraglider displaying the Rotary wheel and the End Polio logo.
Ken began his presentation by thanking Gary, and noted that apart from eradicating polio, there was also a wish to eradicate post polio syndrome.
Ken sought two volunteers from the meeting. Liza and Serge volunteered to assist in holding up the paraglider which Ken had in the room, and spoke of how proud he had the Rotary wheel and “End Polio Now” logo on his paraglider.
Choy Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world, and Ken holds the height record for an Australian paraglider at 7,500 metres. This mountain is in Tibet but is relatively unknown. However, Ken still raised $250,000 for polio eradication, and hoped to raise at least this or more when gliding off Mt Everest. Ken noted the paraglider itself only weighs slightly over 2Kg.
Ken presented another short and very interesting video about paragliding and his ambitions for his “Everest Assault”.
However the landing at the end appeared anything but soft!
Interestingly, most of the accidents on mountains are on the way down as climbers are fatigued after reaching the summit. Ken thought that paragliding down was surely an easier (and safer) way down than climbing. Ken stated that the Everest expedition has been underway for three years. An injury in 2019 cancelled the expedition that year. Ken also spoke that as Rotarians, we should be very proud of what we have achieved in our support for polio eradication from the world. From 350,000 cases annually back in the mid 1980s, which is approximately 1,000 cases per day, in 2021 there were only 5 cases world wide. So far in 2022, two cased have been reported. However, because WHO and Rotary have done such a good job and polio is almost eradicated, fundraising has frustratingly become more difficult. Ken really wants to continue to promote polio eradication, and the work of Rotary and the Rotary Foundation is not yet done.
All Rotary clubs have a fantastic array of programs, but Ken also encouraged all clubs to continue their support for the Rotary Foundation and the goal of polio eradication. The ongoing program worldwide still costs about $50M annually. Ken noted that in the 1940s iron lungs were one of the only ways of treating and supporting people with polio, and as Rotarians we can’t give up when we are so close to achieving our goal.
Ken spoke a little about himself, including his work in the NSW police force, where one of his major activities was body recovery. One of the most worthwhile things he realised during his career was the successful finding of a missing person brought such joy to the families, and the personal reward of participating in such activities was knowing that he had helped return a person to their family. Ken also assisted in a program called “Youth off the Streets” which assisted after the tsunami in the early 2010s. Assisting with child orphans who had lost all their family in the tsunami was one of the most worthwhile experiences of his life, as these children were essentially left to fend for themselves.
Ken feels that his ambition to paraglide off Mt Everest is another great moment in his life, but he is mindful of not speaking about himself, and keeping the focus on polio. Ken will be supported by other expert paraglider pilots and trekkers who all have important tasks to ensure his and the team’s safety.
Altitude sickness is a condition which can lead to death, so it is critical this is properly managed. Ken noted he gets altitude sickness at approximately 5,000m even though he plans climbing up to 8,500m for his current expedition, but he knows how to manage the condition. This includes climbing, then partially descending to alleviate the sickness. The total time on the mountain will be approximately 2 months. Ken noted all the challenges which he confronted on previous climbs, but every time he worked through them to ensure the climb continued. His key focus remained on ensuring his activities kept the focus on polio and fundraising for polio.
The minimum airspeed for flying a paraglider is 6 knots. At high altitude, the airspeed of the paraglider is approximately three times that at sea level, thus this presents a significant challenge and danger.
Ken also noted he and his team are documenting the entire project with a view to creating a documentary to further raise awareness. The Rotary Club of Kathmandu Northeast is assisting with the project as well. The climbing team supporting Ken is a diverse group of individuals, all keen to support his project.
What is the success of this project? Ken’s view is that if it raises awareness and gives him an opportunity to speak out about polio, and if they achieve what they set out to achieve that is a bonus. In Ken’s view, any publicity is good publicity as it brings awareness to the polio cause.
Individually, a single Rotarian can’t eradicate polio, but as a worldwide organisation of 1.2M Rotarians, collectively we can make a real difference. So far since 1985 Rotarians have contributed over $2.1 billion dollars to the cause, but the job is not yet done The final challenge remains. Ken noted he is a member of the Rotary Club of Berry in NSW located just north of Nowra but south of Sydney, and their club wesite at has more information about his quest.
Cliff thanked Ken for his inspirational talk and took questions from the meeting.
Ken was asked how long will the glide take? At an approximately 3800m vertical drop, this would usually take about an hour. The aim is to fly away from the mountain, and also away from the weather influence of any other mountains.
Ken was asked what was the Afghanistan situation with polio? The current understanding in Afghanistan is that polio eradication in that country is still progressing as the Taliban has allowed workers back in as it wishes to be seen as a legitimate government.
A question about the bends was asked, if descending too fast could this be a problem? Ken noted there was an oxygen problem, not a nitrogen problem which causes the bends. However, the lack of oxygen can cause a number of other problems, and sometimes the sufferer is unaware they are affected.
In closing, Cliff asked Ken about how he expected the extra 1.5km higher to affect the glider? Ken stated that the altitude likely meant extra speed, and on previous experience, this meant the wind going through the strings was almost deafening. Ken has designed his own high performance glider for high altitude work. He will need to fly with oxygen, and the air speed will likely be higher than anything he has experienced.
Cliff announced that we give $25 to a nominated local charity to recognise our guest speakers. Ken requested his $25 be dire
cted to Hospice in the Home.
Cliff stated Ken’s presentation was a real gift to all of us, and was inspirational. On behalf of the RCWE, Cliff made a presentation of $2,000 to the End Polio Now project for the Rotary Foundation.
DG John Clue was invited to make some closing comments and he also commended Ken and reiterated his support for the project. John focussed on a couple of points, one being that there are great moments in Rotary, and that this is what inspires Rotarians.
DG John Clue speaking and presenting a $50,000 donation to “End Polio Now”
John noted that he hoped Ken’s project achieved its goals and that Ken lands softly and safely, but in John’s view, success is that we continue to raise money and awareness of the Rotary polio program and asked all clubs continue to support the program and share in this success as we are all still on the mission to end polio commenced in the 1980’s. John then announced a DGF donation of $50,000 to the Foundation polio fund in its continuing fight against polio which was met with acclamation from all in the room.
In closing the meeting, Cliff acknowledged DG John and the generous donation from the district, and thanked Ken and Gary for their inspirational presentation. Cliff acknowledged and thanked all members of the clubs for their attendance and support of Ken and his project. Cliff thanked Cheryl and her helpers for coordinating the raffle and obtaining the prizes, and the raffle which raised $400. Maggie was also thanked for assisting with organising the evening. Next week is a social evening which will be coordinated by Nicole and Mark. Cliff thanked everyone for their attendance and attention, and closed the meeting.
Thank you to PP Mark Taylor for providing photos for inclusion in our bulletin.