"It's empowering to know that local efforts can have an impact on a global level," said Shelby Schroeder, a volunteer for the American Red Cross St. Louis Area Chapter. Schroeder was one of 80 volunteers who helped support the chapter's successful chocolate-flower fundraiser in February 2007.
Kathy Lass, director of International Services for the American Red Cross St. Louis Area Chapter, organized a fundraiser that raised more than $7,000 for the Measles Initiative.
Stephen Hall/American Red Cross
In the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, volunteers from across the St. Louis area gathered for nine hours over three evenings to assemble long-stemmed chocolate roses. On Valentine's Day, the roses were sold for two dollars each throughout the community and on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. All the proceeds went to support the Measles Initiative, a partnership dedicated to reducing measles deaths around the world.
The event was the idea of Kathy Lass, director of International Services for the St. Louis Area Chapter. Through her efforts and inspiration, the event raised thousands of dollars and reached many more people helping increase awareness about the burden of measles in Africa and elsewhere.
Founded in 2001, the Measles Initiative is a partnership, led by the American Red Cross, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO, that helps children around the world have a healthy future by carrying out mass measles vaccination campaigns. Before the founding of the Measles Initiative, measles caused approximately 873,000 deaths annually. By 2005, the total dropped to approximately 345,000—representing a 60 percent reduction. The Initiative is now supporting a new global goal of reducing measles deaths by 90 percent by 2010 (compared to 2000).
Red Cross volunteers make chocolate roses for a fundraiser to protect children against measles.
Stephen Hall/American Red Cross
The fundraiser turned out to be a huge success, raising more than $7,000 for the Measles Initiative. Given that each measles vaccine costs less than one dollar that is more than 7,000 measles vaccinations. In addition, the event reached more than 5,000 people in the St. Louis Area, helping to increase awareness about measles in Africa and Asia.
Lass was surprised by the large turnout of volunteers who supported the event. According to her, volunteers for the St. Louis Chapter were "enthused about doing something so direct."
Through the February fundraiser, many volunteers were introduced to a new side of the Red Cross and its international programs.
Paula Lump, head of the St. Louis University Community Health Association for Students said, "The Measles Initiative provided me with the opportunity to work towards global health even though I don't have the opportunity to go visit African countries personally."
According to Lass, the event also inspired the St. Louis Area Chapter to get more involved with the Measles Initiative in the future.
A small ribbon tied to each rose captured what the entire event was about. It read: "Help give children around the world a healthy future."
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.