Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 11:47

Young people from Devon and Cornwall have planted more than 7,000 crocuses at the Eden Project to highlight a global campaign to eradicate polio.

More than 300 young people from local schools, youth groups and clubs took part in the Big Bulb Plant at Eden on Saturday, October 2, as part of the Thanks for Life campaign organised by Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland (RIBI). A total of five million bulbs were planted across the country under the project.

Rotary commenced a campaign of global polio immunisation in 1985. With the support of the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the movement has reduced the number of countries where polio is endemic from 125 to just four – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

All the planted crocuses are purple, which represents the colour that is applied to the fingers of children around the world when they are immunised against the crippling disease.

Participating schools at Eden’s Big Bulb Plant included Yealmpton Primary, Tintagel Primary, Elburton Primary in Plymouth, Archbishop Benson in Truro, Doubletrees in St Blazey, Bishop's School in Newquay and Biscovey Nursery & Infants among others. The pupils, accompanied by teachers and parents, were also joined by local Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Sea Cadets and disabled groups.

Nine-year-old Abbie Tweedle, from Yealmpton Primary, said: “It must be terrible to have polio, which can deform children’s legs. We have learned a lot about it today.”

John Pearce, Rotary’s District Governor of Plymouth, West Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “This was a great collaboration between Rotary and Eden. It was an inspiring and emotional day and particularly good to see so many children learning the story of polio and why we must finally eliminate it.

“The planting of the purple crocus at Eden, at more than 30 other locations in Plymouth and Cornwall and all around Great Britain and Ireland, is intended to reinforce this message and to encourage people to donate to the campaign when they all flower in February.”

Eden provided free entry for Big Bulb Plant participants, their parents and teachers on Saturday, with visitors donating £300 towards the polio campaign.

The bulbs will be cared for in Eden’s nursery and brought to the Visitor Centre when they flower next spring, coinciding with RIBI’s Thanks for Life – Rotary Day next February.

Justine Quinn, Interpretation Manager at Eden, said: “Although there was a serious message behind the day, it was lots of fun and those involved also got to peek behind the scenes of our Mediterranean Biome as they planted the bulbs.”