Entrepreneur’s bestselling story of survival against the odds celebrates with star-studded Capital event and push to eradicate Polio
Leicester entrepreneur Mark Esho met with former Blue Peter presenter Konnie, who is a Rotary Purple4Polio Ambassador to help End Polio Now at the official launch celebration of his book I CAN. I WILL. this month.
The event, held at the prestigious Rotary in London Headquarters by Regent’s Park, was to celebrate Mark’s achievement of becoming an Amazon bestselling author while also highlighting the need for the final push to eradicate polio globally, thanks to the hard work of Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign.
Guests at the event heard more about Mark’s almost unbelievable journey from contracting polio at the age of five, to become a top businessman, through his incredible spirit, drive and self-propelled determination which has pushed him to become the very best he can be – despite almost every obstacle being thrown in his path.
In his thought-provoking and moving autobiography, Mark not only explores his upbringing and hard childhood – but also asks the question that if he knew what his life had in store for him, would he have chosen to be born. And despite every abuse, beating and suffering he has endured – his surprising yet motivational answer is “Yes”.
Konnie, who travelled to India with Rotary to help immunise children and saw first-hand the effects the disease has on people’s lives, said it was imperative the momentum of the campaign continued.
“You can see from Mark’s incredible story how he had slipped through the net as a child as his parents and foster parents both thought he had been immunised, so it was this one small error which was devastating to his life. We are so close to stopping this disease from spreading further, we must continue our hard work,” she added.
Eve Conway, Vice-Chairman of Rotary International’s End Polio Now: Countdown to History Campaign Committee also highlighted that World Polio Day was upcoming on Wednesday, 24th October.
She said: “Rotary’s goal is to have a polio-free world. The fact we have only had 19 cases globally so far this year, 15 in Afghanistan and four in Pakistan, is pretty amazing and it shows we can eradicate the disease. We need to continue this until we End Polio Now and forever – and this is really achievable”.
“This is why it is really important for someone like Mark to tell their story and for the world to hear from polio survivors how they have overcome their problems and achieved their goals and dreams,” she added.
The disease is now eradicated in the UK (where there has been no domestically acquired case of the disease since 1984) and thanks to the efforts of Rotary International – almost fully wiped out across the world. Mark is proud to have become a Rotary member in Leicester, inspired by the organisation’s role in starting and spearheading the campaign for a polio-free world.
Rotary International pledged to make the world polio-free in 1985 when there was about a thousand cases a day in 125 countries.
Last year there was only 22 cases of wild poliovirus in the entire world, however the World Health Organisation has warned if vaccination is stopped, there could be 200,000 cases every year, within ten years, all over the world – so everyone and everywhere is at risk until it is fully eradicated.
Thanks to the efforts of Rotary, along with its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and more recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there are now just three countries still classed as endemic: Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. In order to get rid of polio, there are still around 450 million children who have to receive multiple doses of the oral polio vaccine in over 60 countries each year as well as introducing polio vaccine into routine Immunisations in many areas where they were not previously available.
Here, Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland has launched the Purple4Polio campaign to raise funds and awareness to help End Polio Now and forever.
Mark, who is a member of Rotary, said: “It was a hard decision to write this book and I thought long and hard about it before I made that step. But I also knew my story had to be told. Not only as an incredible affirmation on why the work to eradicate this awful disease should continue and as to why children should be immunised, but also to show people that they can survive almost everything and anything life throws at them.
“I thought that learning to walk again after polio would be my biggest challenge, but it was just the start and I had to fight for everything. But I survived and thrived to what I have become today.”