Ali was born with a seriously deformed spine and thoracic cage.
Doctors treating the 12-year-old Iraqi boy at a clinic run by off-duty U.S. Army medics in Baghdad knew his best hope for corrective surgery existed outside Iraq. Through the efforts of clinic staff and Rotarians in the United States, Ali and several other Iraqi children were able to undergo life-changing surgery at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia in 2008.
Rotary International’s Rotary Miles program provided free airfare for the children and their family members through the organization’s participation in United Airlines’ charity miles program. Over the years, Rotary has used donated miles to support surgeries by Gift of Life and Rotaplast, two organizations supported by Rotarians. The miles also have been used for Engineers Without Borders volunteers working on Rotary water projects, and in support of other Rotary club and district humanitarian efforts around the world.
Rotary wins 2.5 million miles
Recently, Rotary Miles received a major boost when it qualified for roughly 2.5 million miles from United’s 10 Million Charity Miles Giveaway, held in December.
The contest invited people to vote online to determine how the miles would be divided among 45 organizations participating in the airline’s charity miles program, with awards equal to the percentage of the vote received. Spurred on by social media promotions, Rotarians helped catapult Rotary from 18th to second place in the span of a week, winning 24.8 percent of the United miles.
“Given that this was during December, a time that many clubs had wound down for the festive season, it was a fantastic result,” says Simone Carot Collins, past chair of the Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship. “We promoted it heavily through social networks (especially Facebook), and from there, clubs emailed and posted in their club bulletins.”
In coming months, the miles will be used for eight volunteers participating in National Immunization Days (NIDs), will enable four youth exchange students from disadvantaged households to participate in the NIDs, and will provide for four Gift of Life trips bringing children and their mothers to the United States for surgery.
In addition, the miles will support Rotary Friendship Exchanges, send a student and parent to a Rotary institute or peace conference in celebration of Interact’s 50th anniversary, support service projects in each of Rotary’s six areas of focus, and send participants to a peace conference in Berlin, a Rotary education event in Myanmar, and the Global Poverty Project Concert in New York City.
How you can donate miles
With Rotary’s participation in the United Airlines Mileage Plus Charity Miles Program, Rotarians and non-Rotarians can donate miles, in 1,000-mile increments, to benefit Rotary Foundation programs. Learn how you can donate . (Mileage Plus members can donate online through their Mileage Plus account by clicking on the About United link, then on Global Citizen and Charity Miles, and then selecting Rotary and the number of miles to be donated.)