Last week I got the e-mail…”We have had a spot open up on our observation trip to Uganda (which is in two weeks), and we thought of you.” I had less than 24 hours to decide to accept the incredible invitation from the UN Foundation, and before I knew it, I was reading every travel advisory for Uganda under the sun.
The Shot@Life trip will be observing UNICEF’s bi- and tri-annual Family and Child Health Days, where children are given Vitamin A tablets to boost immunity and prevent blindness, deworming tablets to treat parasitic infections, routine polio and measles immunization, monitoring for nutritional status and insecticide treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria. There will also be visits to other routine immunization clinics, schools, places of worship and other places in rural Ugandan communities.
Could I leave my girls, 5-years old and 19-months old, for a week? They would be just fine for one week. Remember all that stuff you’ve told yourself about teaching social good to your children by setting a good example? Well, this. Yes, this.
Who would watch them? My husband and my mother stepped in. Awesome.
An opportunity like this doesn’t arise very often.
Once in Uganda the team would be traveling in UN vehicles with UN staff. (Could this trip get anymore amazing?) So, In under 24 hours I replied that I was going. Ok, it was more exactly like this, “Ok, guys. Count me in. I’m coming!!!!!!!!!” (with exactly that many exclamation marks. Talk about keeping your cool…)
How did this happen?
For the past year I’ve been advocating for vaccinations for children in the developing world through the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign and the GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization). I resonated with the cause when I first found out that every 20 seconds a child dies of a vaccine preventable disease. I also think of the mothers around the globe losing their children, and I related to them with my own memories of pregnancy loss. I want more mothers to have their healthy children in this world with them.
In the past I have asked the universe to save my pregnancies, and I’ve had many that have failed. It turns out a chromosome disorder was causing the problem, and there was nothing anyone could do to save them. It was tough luck, and it hurt. A lot. I mean, roll off the bed, nose in the tear-filled carpet kind of hurt because I just couldn’t sink any lower. Ask any mother who has suffered a miscarriage and who was hopefully wishing for a baby in her arms.
So, when I think of a mother somewhere out there losing a child to diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia that we can prevent, I hear her pleading to the universe for someone who can help. And, I’m rising to her call and soon will be on a plane to Uganda to tell her through a hug or a high-five that I’ve got her back, because I’ve dipped into that darkness, a darkness introduced by my own losses. Now that I know it, I want to prevent other mothers from having to experience it. EVER.
Through World Moms Blog, I connected with Shot@Life at the BlogHer conference in San Diego in 2011. From that connection World Moms Blog editors, contributors and friends of the website have held parties around the world, lobbied their congressmen and women, attended volunteer summits, advocated globally with their friends over tea and fundraised over $4,000 USD so far. All born from a chance sitting next to Caroline Barrett from Shot@Life in San Diego, and shortly after, Helena Chan from the GAVI Alliance at the Social Good Summit in 2011, who both introduced me to the cause. (I’m really good at sitting next to people.)
I’m also inspired by how my friends and colleagues have run with their advocacy through our website, such as World Moms Blog contributors Nicole Melancon, Kyla P’an, Purnima Ramakrishnan, Denise Paredes, Maman Aya and Lady E. And, friends of World Moms Blog, Jodi Fendrick, Amy Pohl, and the ladies of my local MOMS Club in New Jersey.
I must add an additional — I’m-floored-by-what-one-woman-can-do-shout-out– again to Nicole Melancon, World Voice Editor for World Moms Blog and owner of the Thirdeyemom. She has become an unstoppable Champion to end world poverty (before she engaged with Shot@Life she had single-handedly raised enough money to have a school built in Nepal), and the children she advocates for are so lucky to have her on their team.
So, being brave and leaving my very much-loved (as in my heart beats for them) family behind for one week to further embed my advocacy is tough, no doubt. But, I’m so thankful for the life, opportunities, and access to great healthcare that my family has, here, in the US, and I believe everyone deserves access to the same. There is a reason why we all advocate for global health, and I’m pretty sure that this is just the beginning of what we can do.
I invite you to follow the upcoming Shot@Life trip to Uganda on World Moms Blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. And, if you, too, are inspired by giving more children a shot at life, sign up with Shot@Life, throw a Shot@Life event, or ask us about throwing a GAVI Global Tea Party.
Have you ever advocated for people you haven’t met yet? What do you think it would be like to meet people who are benefitting from the programs you support and seeing those programs in action?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA.
Photo credit to Steve Burden.