If you’ve read my blog before, you know of my passionate and fervent interest to help others. Using it and other streams over the years, I’ve raised large amounts of money for St. Jude Hospital and the Haitian Amputee Mothers Alliance. I’ve raised awareness for Every Mother Counts, Mothers 2 Mothers, Save the Children, Dress for Success and ONE. I write over at The Broad Side and BlogHer when given the opportunity and really try to raise the bar on issues I care about, most pertaining to women and children.
Yet I am not known for this work. I’m the quiet social gooder, raising my hand but perhaps not diving in deep enough. I have been searching for a new cause, an organization that will appreciate my efforts, and I think I have found one.
After several years of watching the significant and important work of Shot@Life through fellow members of the blogging community, I signed up to attend their summit in Washington, D.C., paying my own way, hoping it would bring me in deeper. I’ve been so impressed by their social media and marketing initiatives over the years but haven’t been able to jump in on the scale I would have liked to. This trip would inform me about what they are doing, why they’re doing it and how I can help. It would be a chance to jump in on a very real level by hitting my congressional leaders to advocate to protect children in developing countries from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Shot@Life does such important work, and the first day of the conference was spent zeroing in on what they do. There are 400,000 children born in America every year. Imagine 200,000 of them dying. That’s what would happen if we didn’t access to vaccines, and that is what’s happening globaly – not enough people have access. Vaccines are the safest and most simple and cost-effective ways to save children worldwide. Immunations give chilren around the world a chacne at more “firsts” – 1st words, 1st days of school. They are more likely to celebrate their 5th birthdays, do well in school and go on to become healthy, thriving adults.
Shot@Life raises funding in the U.S. to make this happen by working with policymakers in Washington, DC. Currently, funding is less than 1% of the total U.S. budget, but this budget saves 2.5 million lives every eyear.
After a day of learning, I ventured onto Capital Hill with other New York consituents. Several in my group were doctors, one was a nurse, one was the mother of a young girl who died from Meningitis, a preventable illness, but not one she was told to have her daughter vaccinated for. The look in her eyes went through me and stung my heart, and as a mother, our mission gained significance. We were on Hill and had real work to do.
Together we would inform our Congressman about how in other countries, mothers do not have the luxury of choice unless they walk many miles to get these vaccines. Many have witnessed the unnecessary death of tehir children under the age of 5. It only costs $20 to immunize a child and get the support they need. The campaign’s partners, UNICEF, World Health Organization, and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, are making this happen and their work has already contributed to a 99% reduction in polio, a 75% reduction in measles-related deaths and the introduction of vaccines for two of the most deadly childhood diseases, pneumonia and diarrhea. And the woman who had lost her child would look each congressman in the face and tell them that no mother or father should ever have to go through what she had been through.
As a mother, as a women, as an individual who believes that every person should have a chance, an opportunity, a shot at life, I feel that together, my group made a difference. When I heard that Shot@Life garnered 20 signatures from Congress on a letter to support and increase funding for critical global health and vaccine programs at the end of our day of lobbying, I was elated. Everyone who came for the summit, whether a new Shot@Life champion, had a story to tell and a voice to carry its simple but so important message.
Because that’s what it’s all about – our voices. Together, we can make a difference and change the world. I took the dive and I’m ready to swim. Stay tuned to this space.
To make a donation to Shot@Life, head here: http://shotatlife.org