By the end of a day which began with a detail-heavy discussion of world immunization issues with the Director of GAVI, Seth Berkley and ended many speeches later with Michelle Nunn’s admonition to play a part in “building a truly just world and eradicating poverty,” my head was swimming with a mix of information and information.
It would be impossible to pin down one favorite quote from the day. I am left juggling in my head a bit of awe and mystification at the social media reach some people have, at how I fumbled for my phone the minute Victoria Beckham took the stage but not when other people who are as accomplished (or more) but less high profile in the entertainment world did so.
I loved Ashley Judd’s line: hurting to healing to helping (captured in this tweet).
I am grateful that because I have written about the cause of access to immunization for children worldwide and been an advocate, I have this opportunity to be a Social Good Fellow.
And I can only hope that I can be a small (or big!) part in helping someone somewhere go from hurting to healing to helping …
It’s ridiculous. For our family of five, there are five functional mobile phones in the household (even for the 86 year old with short-term memory issues who has an extremely limited social calendar). In addition to the five functional phones, an inventory of our home would probably unearth another five abandoned phones, set aside in favor of newer technology, more memory, and the ability for Youtube videos of cute kittens to load EVEN FASTER.
That one smartphone per village would make a difference in a place characterized by lack of knowledge and help-seeking behaviors, as well as fear and poverty. These factors result in many African women presenting their breast cancer at late stages when it is difficult or impossible to treat.
With a smartphone and an educational app, trained volunteer ambassadors can spread information about early detection among villagers. This makes it likely that women will catch signs of breast cancer much earlier than had previously been the case.
The app is currently in English, but Kinyarwanda and Swahili versions are being developed.
In the photos below, Valerie, in the village of Gisozi, Gasabo District, Rwanda, receives a smartphone which she will use to educate women.
Photo Credit: BCIEA
We believe we can use what we have to get where we want to be.
Our world needs people like Philippa to achieve Goal 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:
One of the subgoals is: Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks. Philippa is directly impacting this goal, through improving early warning and risk reduction for women in Rwanda as it pertains to breast cancer.
Philippa inspires me to think harder about what I have, to be more creative in how I use it, and to have a more ambitious goal for the change I want to make in the health of the world around me.
Although I chose to focus this post on the BCIEA project, I want to give a shout-out to some other organizations and individuals who are “using what they have to get where they want to be”:
An organization near and dear to me, Shot at Life, which helps ensure children around the world have access to life-saving immunizations. Learn more by clicking here.
The Kupona Foundation, which works closely to provide maternal healthcare, disability services, and sustainable health care in Tanzania. Learn more by clicking here.
I am also inspired by Jennifer Kate Lovallo. When her travel plans landed her in Budapest at precisely the same time that Syrian refugees were streaming through on their way to (primarily) Germany, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and disoriented, she arranged an impromptu effort to provide a relief station so the refugees could meet their basic survival needs. That particular situation may be over before the summit even convenes on September 25, but seeing her ability and willingness to initiate such an action on zero notice and to mobilize inspired me. Read more about her efforts here.
To become more involved in the Global Goals, here are some resources:
I am not sure exactly why my husband and I ended up at the movie Philadelphia in early 1994. As a couple, we have not historically been big on going to movies together. I think it was a night out with a group of friends. Wayne loves Bruce Springsteen (who sang the movie’s theme song) too so maybe that nudged us there.
It was a raw time in our lives, a hauntingly raw time. Wayne’s sister had just died in her sleep at the age of 30, weeks before. I remember sitting by him in the theater wondering what kind of grief reaction the movie’s topic would induce.
Andrew Beckett, the character played by Tom Hanks, was a rising star in a high-profile law firm. As his AIDS diagnosis came to light (as well as his sexual preference), he was released from the firm.
Andrew hired one of the only attorneys who would take his case: Joe Miller, played by Denzel Washington. Joe Miller took on a problem he had no business taking on (from the outer world’s perspective), that of representing Andrew. He didn’t practice the right kind of law. He didn’t drive the right kind of car, live in the right kind of house, or have a diploma from the right kind of school hanging on his wall.
Although I was still in mourning for Wayne’s sister myself, the stronger pull of the film for me was the way it brought back to life all of the conversations I had as a counselor on the Florida AIDS Hotline when it first began (around 1987). Andrew’s struggle to navigate family and society dynamics unearthed the emotions I had felt when someone I loved told me he was gay.
Andrew’s mantra, through all of the doubt pervading his world, was:
EVERY PROBLEM HAS A SOLUTION
Although I have many favorite quotes (some of them listed here), and I love a well turned, elegant phrase, the truth and simplicity of this quote never fails to inspire me to keep trying, to entertain novel solutions to deeply entrenched problems, and to hope for a bright outcome even in times of darkness.
That is how I feel about being a part of Shot at Life. It would be easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues facing children around the world who are dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. It is hard to figure out how to get a vaccine to a child in some remote part of the world – how to physically get the vaccine to that child, how to get his or her mother to trust that the vaccine is something that will benefit their child, how to coordinate multiple moving parts to create a curative whole which will help as many children as possible make it to their fifth birthdays.
But I do believe “every problem has a solution.” I don’t always know what that solution is or how I personally can apply it, but I do know turning my back on this problem is not a solution. That is why I meet with my legislators and their staffs to encourage United States support of global immunization issues; it is why I learn as much as I can, from people who think differently and more creatively than me. It is why I cling tightly to the idea that one person, one idea, one conversation can make a difference.
Won’t you join me in making a difference today?
During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2015—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share inspirational quotes for their children. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or take action using the social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, one vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000).
In last week’s post, I shared my thoughts on the decision made by the principal of my son’s high school to revert the schoolwide summer reading assignment from “required” to “optional.” I disagree with this decision.
As the past week has unfolded, and the ripple effects of the decision have expanded internationally, I have seen many reactions, often from people who will never set foot in Leon County, about what this decision means.
Status of the Decision
The decision to reverse the summer reading assignment from “required” to “optional” is apparently going to stand.
Being a “Person to Be Heard”
When I learned there was a meeting of the Leon County School Board scheduled for August 11, I decided to attend. At first, I thought I would just attend and see if the issue came up. As the date approached (and as the public opinions piled up pro and con), I decided I really had to speak about this, if allowed.
I learned that there are two ways to speak before the board. 1) You can arrive at the meeting site prior to the 6:00 meeting time and fill out a PTBH (Persons to be Heard) card and submit it to a staff member or 2) You can call the school board office in advance and provide your information over the phone. I did not learn about the two options until the Monday before the board meeting (because I did not ask earlier…), so I had to go with option #1. I was told I would be allowed to speak for 3 minutes about the matter I stated on my PTBH card.
Although this is not word-for-word what I said, this is the best recreation I can do and does follow the outline I used Tuesday night:
As a parent who has had at least one child in this school system since 2001, I am glad I attended a meeting (and sorry this was my first). I came away from the discussion with a more comprehensive view of the issue from their angle. Specifically, it was informative to hear the comparisons between this situation and issues of appropriateness of human sexuality curriculum (i.e., (and I am paraphrasing here) “as a teacher I may think [name of student] will benefit from the human sexuality curriculum, but if their parent requests to opt them out, I have to comply with that request.”).
I am grateful to the school board for giving me an opportunity to speak.
While I understand issues like this take on a life (and definition) all their own once they blow up, it has been important to me that the discussion be as accurate as possible, in order to focus on solutions.
This book has not been banned from our school system.
The parent who is quoted in most of the newspaper articles appears to have requested an alternate assignment (rather than requesting the principal revert the assignment to “optional” for the entire school).
Although there was back and forth about this assignment’s classification as “instructional materials,” at least one school board member has acknowledged that policy was not followed in response to a parent’s concern about the content of the book.
What Really Matters
First and foremost, what matters to me is: a book with clear literary merit, which ostensibly was chosen by English faculty based on that merit, should not have been the subject of one administrator’s ad-hoc action in the face of the concerns of a vocal minority of approximately 20 parents at a school of around 1800.
Secondly, although I disagree with the choice of the parent who publicly stated:
“I am not interested in having books banned … But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended. Kids don’t have to be reading that type of thing and that’s why I was asking for an alternative assignment. I know it’s not realistic to pretend bad words don’t exist, but it is my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my daughter knows what is right or wrong…”
…I fully support her choice to request an alternate assignment. The comments to the articles and blog posts I have read about this incident which attack her personally are the saddest to me. And I know this is how the blog world works. I know I, too, have set myself up for being the subject of personal attacks by being so public about this issue. I know if I choose to walk into the territory of public discourse that I must grow a thick skin and cultivate the good sense not to engage with those who just want to pick a fight for the sake of picking a fight.
As I said when I wrote about Drought Shaming, “distrust among neighbors does not build a caring community.” In this case, I would amend that slightly to “animosity among parents does not nurture a caring school.” For all I know, the very parent in question and I may be responsible for jointly helping our students cope with a tragedy, sell concessions to support a school activity together, or (heh …) reshelve books at the media center together. It does neither of us any good to attack each other and it surely does not present a good role model to our children of civil discourse.
(I am also in full support of the school’s faculty and principal, even though there are times such as this when we will disagree.)
Thirdly, although I feel certain the school district does not propose to “ban” or “remove” this book from our library shelves or digital content, I am uneasy at the whiff of the idea that it could ever happen. I really hope my fellow Leon County parents and literature lovers are with me on this one.
Fourthly, here is why it matters to spend three minutes publicly defending one book. It is important to spend three minutes publicly defending one book because, although I believe what I said above in my third point, the erosion of intellectual freedom does not usually start by a flood, it starts by a trickle.
Erosion can begin by saying “you have to register” if you are Jewish.
Erosion can begin by saying “you have to count the soap bubbles” to vote.
Erosion can begin by saying “because you are a female, you have less right to education than a male does.”
It matters to to put one sandbag in place to make it less likely that freedom to think will wash away.
The Curious Incident featured on Page 44 of “Pieces of Us,” the 2015-16 Lincoln High School yearbook.
The Summer Reading assignments for the 2016-17 school year can be found here.
A few months ago, I had to do a Toastmasters project called “Speaking Under Fire.” The objective of the speech was “dispel hostility and convince them that your side has some merit.” Our instructions included, “Select a generally unpopular point of view – perhaps one that you also oppose – in order to assure opposition.” The title of my speech was “My Unvaccinated Child is Just Fine Thank You.” Since I am a Shot at Life champion, this choice was definitely a stark contrast to my true beliefs. I pretended I was a pregnant anti-vaxxer speaking to a room full of pediatricians. It was difficult but the process of being in that woman’s shoes informed my approach. It didn’t change my beliefs, but it forced me to try to understand, on a very personal level, what her fears were and how they influenced her beliefs. The most eye-opening component was the understanding that this woman felt the way she did (and bought into misinformation the way she did) out of love for her child. We all want the best for our children.
Honestly, if I tried to do the same with this incident, I would struggle. I do feel strongly that decision which was made was the wrong one, that this book has particular literary value, and that proper procedures should have been followed at the school level.
Were my three PTBH minutes enough to make a difference? I do not immediately know, but my stubborn ounces begged to be heard …
(To One Who Doubts the Worth of Doing Anything If You Can’t Do Everything)
You say the Little efforts that I make
will do no good: they never will prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in balance.
I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.
– bonaro w. overstreet
(But Wait, You Explained “PTBH” But What is the Reference to the Epicentre?)
For all my frustration at people who don’t live here, who have commented on this issue publicly, lumping all Tallahasseeans together, even the one who lumped us all in as “Silly Americans,” I appreciate author Mark Haddon’s tweet (he did the same for another local parent’s blog).
Hundreds of commenters in an international audience have opinions. All I know from my little spot at the epicentre is precisely where my “stubborn ounces” are going to go: toward making sure the one student I have responsibility for has unfettered access to books which matter.
I observed this in the recent school newsletter (January 2016):
Because the resolution of the picture is slightly poor, here’s the text: “At our recent School Advisory Council Meeting, the committee proposed and approved new school procedures for major readings and attached assignments, with an emphasis on summer reading. These procedures outline the responsibility of the faculty to submit potential texts, accompanying assignments, and an alternative assignment to a Reading Committee. The committee will include a group of stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, parents, and students.The committee’s final recommendation will be submitted to the principal for review each year.It is our goal that these new procedures will honor the intent of reading assignments by our faculty while meeting the expectations of all stakeholders.”
When I was running recently, the lyrics to one of the songs on my Playlist were “How Soon is Now?”
Since I became a Shot at Life Champion in 2013, and a Champion Leader in late 2014, I have learned a lot about vaccine-preventable diseases and the potentially fatal barriers children face in many countries. I have met incredible people, and seen I have seen government “at work.”
If it were up to me, I would take a plane across the world and personally administer a child in Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, the three countries where polio still exists, a life-saving vaccine. I would put together the $20 worth of vaccines that will give lifetime immunity from measles, polio, pneumonia, and diarrhea to the children who are currently dying every 20 seconds from those diseases and just do it.
The problem: simply vaccinating children is not simple.
Simply vaccinating children takes the intricately coordinated efforts of people in the affected countries, manufacturers who make the vaccines, vehicles who transport the vaccines, copious amounts of funding, and an alphabet soup of accounts and programs including UNICEF, GAVI, CDC, and USAID. “Simply” vaccinating children a world away takes the involvement of us here in the United States. Although there are many reasons, three of the main ones are:
the existence of these diseases anywhere is a threat to children everywhere (as we have seen with recent US-based measles outbreaks)
prevention is infinitely more cost effective than treatment
it is the right thing to do.
As a Champion and Champion Leader, I have had many great experiences in two short years:
Two Shot at Life Summits in Washington DC
With fellow champions Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio in March 2014
Meetings in the Washington, DC, offices of my Senators and Representatives
Meetings in the Tallahasssee, FL offices of my Senators and Representatives
In-Depth training on vaccine-preventable diseases, advocacy methods, and communication strategy
In the midst of all these opportunities, I can grow frustrated though. It is easy for doubt to seep in:
How will this lovely hotel luncheon/fancy hors d’ouerves event/[insert very first-world goodie or experience here] make a difference?
How will that e-mail, letter, phone call, or tweet I sent to my legislator matter?
How can I, “just a mom,” do anything for that child in Pakistan?
I recently read A Simple Idea With Huge Potential by Mark Miller, and his post helped me channel those worries in a different, more productive way. Mark described a plan to accelerate his team’s performance by “assigning a champion to each large body of work.” Among the attributes expected of his “champions” was this:
Ensure the work gets done.
I may not be able to travel to Pakistan to vaccinate a child personally, but I can develop the expertise to make sure our government supports the President’s budget fully so that funding and support for critical global health and global vaccine programs is sustained.
I can inform, advocate, and fundraise for the cause of global vaccination.
I can recruit fellow committed, intelligent, creative, funny people to join me. Heck, you don’t even have to be funny!
We are holding a Champion Training this Wednesday night, April 29, from 8-9:30 p.m.. Please join us, even if you aren’t sure you want to commit to being a champion. It will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more! Click this link to sign up and get on the distribution list for the April 29 call.
I may not be able to completely fix the problem now, but I can commit to being a champion for ensuring the work gets done.
WHO WANTS TO JOIN ME?
Shot@Life–UN Foundation, Mozambique, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 (Photo/Stuart Ramson)
My daughter and I went shopping Friday morning (yes, on Black Friday.) We didn’t get up at a ridiculously early hour, but she was in town from college and we were both intrigued by the idea of a deal, so we set off to see what we could find.
Although we did find some bargains, the best takeaway of the day would not fit in a shopping bag. The best takeaway was time with my daughter, lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, and catching up on each other’s lives.
Bonding Over Bento
With Black Friday and Small Business Saturday behind us, she returned to college, leaving me with a social media stream full of all the “deals” available on Cyber Monday.
It’s the activity in cyber space on #GivingTuesday, though, that comes closest to fulfilling the message of the upcoming holiday season.
Why Is #GivingTuesday Different?
December 2, 2014 is marked #GivingTuesday – a day of giving. This global day inspires personal philanthropy and encourages bigger, better and smarter charitable giving during the holiday season, showing that the world truly gives as good as it gets.
Many causes I love are having campaigns on #GivingTuesday, but I do want to take a moment to highlight Shot at Life, one of the Giving Tuesday 2014 causes nearest and dearest to my heart, and one which has the potential to have an enormous impact thanks to matching donors.
This Giving Tuesday, Shot at Life is focusing on pneumococcal disease, which kills an estimated 1.1 million children under the age of five annually.
The only cute pneumonia is a stuffed pneumonia.
This disease hits hardest in communities weakened by poverty. Malnutrition and undernourishment leave babies without the ability to fight infection. This video, originally created for World Pneumonia Day, really made me think: What if this were my child?
Five Dollars Will Become Ten …
$5 can immunize a child against pneumococcal disease. I am committing to either raise $5 from 5 friends or donate $25 myself because that $25 is going to magically become $50 (yes I wish it always worked that way but this is a very limited time offer for some extremely deserving children in our global family).
Bill and Melinda Gates believe that vaccines are one of the best investments you can make to improve global health. They are very supportive of Shot@Life advocating and fundraising for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. With replenishment coming in early 2015, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would like to support Shot@Life and Gavi by matching donations on #GivingTuesday (up to $200,000)!
In addition, this #GivingTuesday, MAM (@mambaby) – a global leader in pacifiers, baby bottles and infant oral development products – is supporting Shot@Life. Their generous donation of $25,000 will help provide thousands of pneumonia vaccines to children in need around the world. Donate to Shot@Life and help give children everywhere a shot at a healthy life and join the conversation on Twitter by following @ShotAtLife and #GivingTuesday.
Thank you, MAM, for making the first gift of $25,000 toward our $200,000 goal!
Makes my $5 seem pretty do-able, right? How about you? You can easily donate your $5 at this link.