Community Voices

Miami Rotarians travel to India to administer polio vaccines

One of the greatest success stories of recent times has been the elimination of polio in India’s children through vaccinations.

According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, combined efforts by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, and UNICEF, the disease “was tackled head-on.” There has not been a case of wild poliovirus in India since 2011.

Maria Kesti, a past president of the Rotary Club of Perrine-Cutler Ridge/Palmetto Bay, traveled to India with other Rotarians and staff from the World Health Organization to help administer polio vaccinations to children.

In January, local Rotarian Maria Kesti traveled to India to administer vaccines at two clinics. Club member Carmen Baker joined her in the efforts.

The experience was humbling.

“I have been a Rotarian for 25 years and it was always a dream of mine to be able to personally help in the polio efforts,” Kesti said.

“Receiving all of the travel vaccinations, traveling to and from India, and working in unhealthy conditions was not at all easy,” she said. “But being able to place those few precious drops of the polio vaccine in the mouth of a child and knowing that they would now not suffer from this horrible disease made it all worth it and was more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.”

Kesti is a past president of the Rotary Club of Perrine-Cutler Ridge/Palmetto Bay.

The trip was initiated by members of the Rotary Club to continue support of the major world project of Rotary International —eliminating polio from the world. They raised funds to support the “Immunization Days,” and helped pay some of the costs of travel.

The volunteers also visited a hospital for those suffering from polio, schools, temples, mosques, the headquarters of the Indian World Health Organization, and Rotary Clubs in India.

For her dedication in continuing the efforts of the campaign “End Polio Now” Kesti has been named the Polio Chair for Rotary International District 6990, which includes South Florida and Grand Bahama Island.

Polio remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, according to Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Until transmission of the virus is interrupted in these countries, the entire world remains at risk especially in vulnerable countries with weak public health and immunization services.

Learn more about other volunteers on the frontlines, and how you can help, at

12-year-old prodigy in concert

The South Florida Youth Symphony will feature Moana Fujiwara, a sixth grade piano prodigy from Doral Academy, at its upcoming Spring Concert 4 p.m. March 10 at the Lou Rawls Auditorium, Florida Memorial University, 15800 NW 42nd Ave.

Sixth grade prodigy Moana Fujiwara, 12, will be featured in the South Florida Youth Symphony March 10 Spring Concert at Florida Memorial University. The event is dedicated to Dennis Kam, former University of Miami music professor and assistant conductor of the South Florida Youth Symphony, who died Dec. 25.

The concert is being dedicated to SFYS Assistant Conductor Dennis Kam who died Dec. 25 at age 76. Kam, who was also a former University of Miami music professor, was a strong advocate for young musicians.

Moana, 12, has been playing piano for six years. She is assistant concertmaster with the SFYS, the youngest in the symphony’s 54-year history. Last year, she performed with the group at New York’s Carnegie Hall and will travel with the musicians to Prague, Czech Republic at the end of March for the Prague Bohemian Youth Music Festival.

Also performing at the concert will be the String Consort, Symphonia Chamber Strings, and the Youth Symphony string section in a special tribute called “It Is Well With My Soul” for Kam. Edward Ercilla, director of the String Consort group and the Instrumental Music Director at Doral Academy, will play the piano solo during the tribute.

The South Florida Youth Symphony March 10 Spring Concert at Florida Memorial University will be dedicated to Dennis Kam, former University of Miami music professor and assistant conductor of the South Florida Youth Symphony, who died Dec. 25.

The orchestra will also perform one of Kam’s compositions, “Simply,” which was first performed by the SFYS at the 30th International Youth and Music Festival in Vienna in 2001 under his direction.

“All the students are very dedicated and talented, devoting their Sunday afternoons to the study of classical music, and preparing for these community concert events. This should prove to be a delightful afternoon,” said Marjorie Hahn, executive and musical director.

Now in its 54th year of training young musicians, the South Florida Youth Symphony is considered one of America’s premier youth music organizations. Concert tickets are $12 to $16.50. Call 305-238-2729 or visit

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day early

Set your calendar for Miami’s 40th annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival, celebrated noon to 6 p.m. March 9 at Ponce Circle Park, 2800 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Coral Gables.

Headlining the free fun-filled day of food and entertainment will be Wide Awake, A U2 Tribute Band. Other activities will include bagpipers, Irish dancers, Irish food, a variety of crafts, a giant slide, a bounce house, and a merry-go-round. The event is hosted by the St. Patrick’s Day Committee and is open to everyone.

Be sure to try the homemade Irish soda breads and whiskey cakes along with traditional corned beef and cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, Irish coffee, and a wide array of spirits for the adults and other beverages. Irish crafts and Celtic memorabilia will be available for sale by high quality vendors.

Irish dancers from the Breffni Academy of Dance led by Michael O’Hara will provide fancy stepping, and the “young lassies” of The Miss Colleen Pageant will be showcased on stage.

For more information, call 305-596-9995 or e-mail

Women of Impact

In 1983, a group of volunteering women got together to form the Women’s History Coalition of Miami Dade County. They wanted to make sure the accomplishments of women in our community were recorded and published. The organization was incorporated three years later.

The Coalition will soon mark 31 years of recognizing trailblazers with the Women of Impact Awards. The 2019 honorees are Clora Adkins-Nelson, Jessica Eve Berrin, Renee Gordon, Rene Tew, Cheryl Little and Bertila Soto.

This year’s theme is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Non-violence.” The event is 2 p.m. March 17 at Hyatt Regency Hotel, 50 Alhambra Plaza, Coral Gables. Tickets are $70. To attend, contact Helen McGuire at 305-242-6293 or Elsie Powell at 786-800-0515.