One week ago today, I returned from a 3-day conference in Washington, DC. I was there with the Shot@Life organization, to learn more about advocating for a cause that I care deeply about. Shot@Life provides life-saving vaccines to children in developing nations, the program is run by the United Nations Foundation. Did you know that 1 in 5 children around the world does not have access to the vaccines they need to survive?! Shot@Life is working hard to change that dismal fact.
There were over 100 Shot@Life Champions in DC for training, and I was honored to be one of them. (There were 13 of us from CA, that’s us in the pic below!) We came from all over the U.S., with one goal in mind-to save the lives of innocent children! It has taken me a whole week to digest everything I learned in DC, everything I heard, the stories others shared with us. Like the stories one of my fellow CA delegates, Dr. Tanya Arora, relayed while we speaking to our state representatives on Capitol Hill. Dr. Arora recently spent 6 months in Africa, working. She told us of the heartache of watching children die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Every day, every week-for 6 months; she had to witness kids dying in their mother’s arms. They were dying from diseases like polio, malaria, and rotavirus. Every time she told the story- my eyes filled with tears. I cannot imagine what it must have been like, for her, as a doctor, to see kids dying and not being able to do anything to help them. My heart also ached for the parents of the children, for they too, were helpless.
We are so lucky to live in the US, where vaccines are readily available to us. With a simple phone call to our child’s pediatrician, we can schedule an appointment for our children to be immunized. Such isn’t the case in developing countries. Mother’s walk miles, sometimes up to 50 miles, in order to get to a clinic and have their child vaccinated. Once they arrive at the clinic, they wait hours in the blistering sun. I was there in DC for those mothers- I was their voice on Capitol Hill! I was also there for myself, and my family. For my uncle, who contracted Polio as a child-and for the maternal grandmother I never got to meet; she passed away when my mother was just 5 years old, from Tuberculosis… they were both heavy on my mind. In the pic below, we are in Senator Barbara Boxer’s office, waiting our turn to speak with staff.
If you had told me a year ago, that I would be in Washington, DC, speaking to members of Congress-I would have laughed and asked what you’d been smoking! But knowing that every 20 seconds, a child in a developing nation dies from a vaccine-preventable disease, was enough to get me on Capitol Hill! Our representatives need to know that someone cares about children in other countries, that those kids matter, that every child matters! Shot@Life advocates met with over 100 congressional offices while we were in DC. Our CA group met with the offices of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Barbara Lee & Congressman Henry A. Waxman. Had I ever done anything like this before?! No, I hadn’t. Was I nervous? You betcha! But what I kept telling myself over and over was this: If the tables were turned, if it were me in that developing nation, with no access to vaccines… would I want help from others?! The answer? You know it!! Of course I would! I would want & welcome as much help as possible.
What if it were you, or your child? Wouldn’t you want someone you had never met to speak up for you? Wouldn’t you want others to care? I think we all would. We, as parents, would do anything for our children. That’s universal. The U.S. does not hold the patent on caring for children- mothers everywhere love their kids and want what’s best for them. I know I have my work cut out for me as a Shot@Life Champion. I need to get the word out about the importance of global vaccines. I need to think of ways to fundraise and help raise money for Shot@Life, so they can continue doing the wonderful work they are doing immunizing kids. I need to push Congress to continue providing foreign aid funding for programs like this. Did you know foreign aid funding is less than 1% of the total federal budget? That’s it! We are so close to eradicating polio worldwide, there are just three countries remaining with active polio cases- Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Polio is 99% eradicated, we just need those last three countries and we can say goodbye to polio forever! It’s going to be a lot of hard work- but I’m not alone, I’ve got every other Shot@Life Champion out there helping me out!
Do you want to join me? Would you like to make a real difference in the world? You can sign up to be a Shot@Life Champion here! I would love the help! Be expecting lots more posts about Shot@Life- after all, I’ve got work to do!
Photo credit: Last photo taken by Daniel Cima/UN Foundation. Thank you to my Shot@Life Mentor, Tracey Clark…my CA crew, and to the entire Shot@Life team! We can do this!