Today’s post is from a dear old friend of mine Allison Charleston…
Volunteering has always been an important part of my life. In high school and college I was committed to service and spent some free time tutoring kids from a local youth group, raising money for cancer research and working on home repairs at a local Habitat for Humanity house. As a junior and senior in college I lead Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge service trips to Meridian, Mississippi and Covington, Louisiana. As a young lawyer, I was always mindful of pro bono opportunities and ensured that it always made up a certain percentage of my work hours each year. Once I became a mom and stopped working outside of the home in order to raise my son, I completely stopped volunteering. In the early days of motherhood, I felt I had absolutely no time to devote to service, but as the years have gone on I have felt that part of my life calling to me.
A little over a year ago a college friend and sorority sister, Jen Burden asked me to sign on as a contributor to her newly founded international blogging website, World Mom’s Blog. I readily accepted a great opportunity to be a part of WMB which is comprised of a group of over 50 international mothers from over 20 countries who write on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. As part of WMB’s work toward promoting social good, WMB contributors around the world have begun hosting “GAVI Global Tea Parties” as part of a grass-roots movement of advocacy events to raise awareness for the GAVI Alliance. The GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunizations) is a nonprofit set up in 2000 with a mission to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunization in poor countries.
On June 26, 2012, I hosted the first NYC GAVI Global Tea Party for sixteen women and it was filmed as part of a documentary being created to raise awareness about the great, life saving work that GAVI is doing. I decided to host the NYC Tea Party after I took some time out to research GAVI and the great work they are doing around the world. I learned that every 20 seconds a child dies from a vaccine preventable disease and also learned that 20 dollars fully vaccinates a child from birth to age 5 against the most severe childhood illnesses. It seems to me that this is a surmountable problem and just a small individual contribution from an individual could make a world of difference in the life of a child.
As a mother, this particular cause resonates with me because, sadly, I have some experience with pregnancy loss. While I’m thrilled to be currently expecting my second baby at the end of the summer, this is not my second pregnancy by any means. I’ve endured recurrent pregnancy losses throughout my life and know the pain, sadness and isolation associated with it. I could not even imagine the pain mothers around the world are experiencing losing children as a result of the lack of access to a vaccine. There are places in the world where women are losing multiple children to vaccine preventable diseases. GAVI is working to make a difference there. It makes me wonder about what that type of sadness and loss does to a woman, her family and even the community as a whole. It is a devastating consequence from a mostly solvable problem. I thought that if we could prevent just one child from succumbing to a vaccine preventable illness that would be wonderful and we could potentially spare another mother the pain, isolation and desperation of loss.
At our party, we had a speaker from the UN Foundation Shot @ Life campaign speak to us about a recent trip she took to Africa to witness the great work GAVI is doing in the field. We also watched a video where a mother spoke about losing her daughter to pneumonia and discussed the impact that the video and speech had on us and our thoughts about this global problem. We then asked everyone to help raise awareness about GAVI and the great work they do through Twitter and Facebook. The best part is that we collected over $1,100 for GAVI through the UN Foundation Shot @ Life campaign! I was so proud of the work that I did to organize this event and also really grateful and humbled that all of my friends were able to take time out of their day to participate in this great fundraiser. It meant the world me and it will mean the world to the children that GAVI helps each year with its campaign to deliver lifesaving vaccines to children in developing nations!