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Portland student leads campaign against measles
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Jamie Mazzurco
March 16, 2007

High school students are rarely silent. But as Michelle Dubinski delivered a presentation on the Measles Initiative and its life-saving activities to protect children, that’s exactly what she heard: silence.

Michelle Dubinski
Michelle Dubinski, a youth advocate and student at Gresham High School, stands in front of a presentation board. In just one week, Dubinski informed more than 1000 people about measles in Africa.
Oregon Trail Chapter/American Red Cross

For one week, Dubinski dedicated all of her free time to setting up educational displays at her high school and giving nearly 10 presentations a day on measles. "By the end of the day I didn’t want to talk anymore," Michelle said, laughing.

As a senior at Gresham High School in Portland, Oregon, Dubinski discovered the Measles Initiative while searching for an idea for her Senior Service Project. To develop her project, she began working with Francisco Ianni, the youth services specialist for the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The project would have two parts. First, there would an educational component, providing information about measles and how the American Red Cross and its partners are fighting the disease. Second, the campaign would provide young people with an opportunity to affect change and save lives through fundraising.

The Measles Initiative, launched in 2001, is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths around the world. Leading this effort are the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and World Health Organization (WHO). The Initiative has an ambitious goal: to support the reduction of measles deaths by 90 percent by 2010 (compared to 2000). Already, the Initiative has supported more than 40 campaigns in Africa and Asia helping to reduce measles deaths by 60 percent globally (compared to 1999).

Dubinski researched information about measles, and she set-up a short presentation to educate her fellow students about the Measles Initiative campaigns. Dubinski made her message school-wide by setting-up posters and advertisements from the Oregon Trail Chapter, other worldwide chapters and the Measles Initiative. In the end, Dubinski reached approximately one thousand students and staff with information about the efforts of the Measles Initiative. She also raised more than $600 by selling Measles Initiative pins in her community.

Working with the Red Cross and the Measles Initiative was "one of the most productive, time consuming and draining projects that I have ever done," she said. "But it has been the most rewarding."

For Dubinski, the best part was the response that she received from her peers at Gresham. "They really got it," she exclaimed. "They really understood that one dollar, equals one vaccine, equals one life."

And the impact of her work will be felt beyond the week-long campaign, as several students have already shown an interest in conducting their own Measles Initiative projects next year.

According to Tom Urbanowitz, the senior project director for Gresham High School, "Our hope is to make this campaign a permanent fixture at Gresham High School."

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 with estimates from 2000. During its first five years (2001-2005), the Initiative was the main international supporter of mass measles immunization campaigns that led to the vaccination of more than 360 million children, predominantly in Africa. 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 bed nets for malaria prevention. The Measles Initiative has mobilized more than $308 million through 2006 to support campaigns in more than 43 countries in Africa and Asia. In 2007, for the first time, the Measles Initiative will support vaccination campaigns in each of the six WHO regions of the world. This will be made possible by new funding from the International Finance Facility for Immunization. Leading the Measles Initiative efforts are the American Red Cross, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. For more information or to make a donation, log on to www.measlesinitiative.org.

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