A Shot@Life, or Emily Goes To Washington

I promised to write more about my experience with Shot@Life when I traveled to Washington, D.C. in February to receive training to become a Shot@Life Champion. I have been on the road ever since! It feels like I have only been home for four minutes this month. And, by “this month”, I mean February. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the fact that it is already March and that March is half over!

Why Shot@Life? I am part of an organization called the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), an all-volunteer ladies group that has local clubs all over the United States and beyond. I am the current President of my local Club, and the 2nd Vice President at the State level. One of the organizations that we partner with on the national level is Shot@Life, which is a program of the United Nations Foundation. I met representatives of this group at the last GFWC International meeting in Charlotte, NC this past summer and was immediately impressed with thier simple, yet very real message: That a child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease. We can give these children a “shot at life” by providing them with vaccines for Pneumonia, Rotovirus (diahrea), Measles, and Polio. It costs $20 to give a child these vaccines. Shot@Life organizes the donations and advocacy around this issue and then uses partners on the ground in the right locations to administer the vaccines. $20 covers all of this. $20 can save a child’s life.

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[Click on this image for more information.]

I liked this organization enough to pick up some information to bring back to my clubwomen at home. I leafed through the pamphlets and read some articles online. GFWC offered the opportunity to become an official Shot@Life Champion through an essay contest. Four clubwomen were chosen, and I was one of them.

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The training itself was outstanding. It was uplifting. It was nothing short of incredible. I met with 100+ other women and men who were from a number of different organizations around the country who all had the same idea close to their hearts: Let’s save lives by bringing this program back to our friends, family, and others. Let’s use our networks to spread the word around the internet and blogosphere, and garner interest from our Senators and Representatives in promoting children’s health issues at the gobal level.

This summit took place in Washington, D.C. So, one day, we went to Capitol Hill. I was able to meet with the offices of Senators John Thune (R) and Tim Johnson (D) of South Dakota as well as three senators from New Jersey. All of the people that we met with received us and our information well. Since there isn’t current legislation involving children’s global health issues, I’m not sure that we will see much action on the part of the Congresspeople that we met with, but these meetings were an opening, and a reason to invite those who represent our states to local events that we hold in the future. They were also a way for us to say, “What can we do for you?”. I don’t think that our people in Congress hear this very often. Is there any way that we can help to serve the people of our states with regards to children’s health issues? I know of at least one Champion who has been asked to serve on a comittee back in their state. That’s something!

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The ladies from New Jersey that I got paired up with were AWESOME, and I am now friends with them on Facebook and read their blogs. I have no doubt that we will be working together in the future. All of us Champions are interacting through a group created for us on Facebook, and multiple posts are made a day updating all of us on all of the awesome events that people are creating, the meetings being held with people of interest, the connections being made across this globe of ours.

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The Shot@Life Champion Summit was just a beginning. I’ve already been asked to speak at two conferences in my state and to talk with a doctor who is interested in Shot@Life information. My local GFWC club has plans to do a fundraiser for Shot@Life, though the details aren’t laid out just yet (something to plan for this Spring, once the frozen tundra melts off a little outside). I also have plans for the future: I will be the president of GFWC South Dakota in a year and a half, and I will highlight Shot@Life as my main program of focus for my two year administration. This means that I will be asking the ladies of my state to take part in education, advocacy, and fundraising for Shot@Life and other children’s health issues.

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Why do I do this?

1. Because vaccinations are important. FOR EVERYONE. A disease eliminated is a disease eliminated FOR EVERYONE. Everyone on planet Earth wins. By the way, polio only exists in three countries now: Afganistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.*

2. I love my boys. And, as a mother, I have this innate love for everyone else’s kids, too. Every mother deserves a healthy child. Every mother deserves a happy family. Every mother in the whole world. We all love our kids in the same ways, worldwide.

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[Only two of these guys are mine, by the way.]

3. This is something that I can do. I, one person in this great big world, CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Really. Do you have $20? Than you can make a difference, too. It really is that easy. Everything is already in place to make this happen. That’s why Shot@Life and their partner organizations are so awesome, and I am so thankful to represent them.

Will you please join me? Learn more (or donate) at the Shot@Life website.

* From the World Health Organization

Q: Polio is a disease you read about in history books. Does it still exist? Is it curable?

A: Polio does still exist, although polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated more than 350 000 cases to 650 reported cases in 2011. This reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease. Today, only three countries in the world have never stopped transmission of polio (Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan).

Despite the progress achieved since 1988, as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. The poliovirus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly amongst unimmunized populations. Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within ten years, all over the world.

There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.

47805_10152576400900230_103425925_n [Click on this image for more info about how vaccines are devloped.]

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