In between mastering the latest video game and coping with math homework, some may think the busy youth of today do not have time to volunteer or lend a hand to help someone in need. However, many youth in America are finding a bond with other children around the world who need their help to fight a disease that has been virtually eradicated in the U.S.
This connection led the students at Corning Free Academy in Corning, N.Y., to launch a campaign to raise awareness about measles and its impact on millions of children in Africa and Asia. Measles is one of the leading vaccine-preventable childhood killers in the world. Approximately 410,000 children under the age of five die globally of measles each year. A safe and highly-effective vaccine has been available for more than 40 years, and it costs less than $1 to vaccinate one child against measles. Despite this, millions of children still remain at risk from measles.
The French and Spanish classes at Corning Middle School raised more than $500 to help the Measles Initiative fight the deadly disease. The students held bake sales, mowed lawns, staged a hoop shoot and organized a walkathon. They also conducted a “penny war” – a competition to see which class could collect the most pennies in a designated time period.
The drive was not confined to only raising money, but involved getting the students to see the bigger picture.
"They learned so much doing this," said Spanish teacher Bev Stevens.
They researched measles, the countries affected by the disease and also designed posters and pamphlets for the fundraiser that explained the measles burden in Africa. As a result of the fundraising event, the students were able to present a donation of more than $500 to Debby Woglom, the Measles Initiative chair for the Corning Chapter of the American Red Cross.
The bond that connects young people half a world away has led not only to a new view of helping others but to lives actually being saved.
The Measles Initiative, launched in 2001, is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally, with the goal of cutting measles deaths by 90 percent by 2010 compared to 2000. During its first five years (2001-2005), the Initiative supported the vaccination of more than 217 million children in Africa, saving 1.2 million lives. Through these efforts, measles cases and deaths have dropped by 48 percent worldwide and by 60 percent in Africa, where measles deaths and disability are highest. Building on its success in Africa, the Initiative has expanded into Asia. The Initiative increasingly provides additional life-saving health interventions in its campaigns, including vitamin A, de-worming medicine and insecticide-treated nets for malaria prevention. The Measles Initiative has mobilized more than $200 million to support campaigns in more than 43 countries in Africa and Asia. Leading these efforts are the American Red Cross, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and World Health Organization. For more information or to make a donation, log on to www.measlesinitiative.org.