The History of World Polio Day

Standard

IMG_0078

Last night my daughter was up really late working on a history project, which is just the nature of the junior high beast, I suppose.  So here I sit, this morning, sipping my highly caffeinated tea, realizing that one day, hopefully very soon, some junior high student, somewhere, will be doing a history project on the eradication of polio!  While that sounds crazy to some of you, it is so close to being true that it could very well become history before my own kids finish school and head off to college, and more importantly, they could be part of making that history happen!  Hard to imagine?  I say “NO!”  The globe is currently 99% polio free!  That means that there is only 1% left to go!  That, my friends, is historical!  Only one other disease has been eliminated from the globe and we are SO CLOSE to making it happen again.  But we can’t just wait for it to happen.  We have to help write the history of our generation.

If we keep moving ahead like we are, making strides in reaching those most in need.   We CAN rid the world of the debilitating effects of polio.  We CAN save lives.

Polio only exists in three remaining countries:  Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Most recently India is polio free!  And while most of us are safely tucked in our first world environment where we feel that polio will never reach us again, we need to realize that as long as polio is anywhere in the globe, it is a threat to all of us, everywhere.  Rotary and its partners, including Shot@Life, are committed to fighting polio until every child is safe from this devastating disease.  According to Rotary statistics it costs $.60 to protect one child from polio.  Sixty Cents!  The majority of children that contract this disease are under the age of 5.  FIVE!  And the estimated amount that will be saved if polio is eradicated from the globe:  $40-50 billion.  BILLION!

So, back to this history project…the task was to learn about your own family history…what my daughter learned was that her grandpa’s uncle (my great-uncle) had polio as a child.  He has a limp, that until I became involved with Shot@Life, I never questioned.  But as my involvement with Shot@Life sparked conversations with my own family, I learned that his limp was due to the contraction of polio as a kid.  I was able to share that bit of history with her last night, which makes the mission of eradicating polio all that more important to us, personally.

I got involved with Shot@Life a few years ago and from day one I have tried to involve my kids.  They know the statistics, they wear the green shirts, they stand in very public places to hold signs that read “vaccines save lives”.  But more importantly they know that they are helping make history happen and not just reading about it in their books at school.  They ARE the change.  They ARE the voice.  They ARE advocates.  Little ones…but they too care about the world around them and seeing diseases like polio rid from the globe for good.

I can only hope that in the near future my kids can feel great pride about being part of this historical endeavor, and know that they contributed to the efforts to help end polio so that when their own kids are working on their history projects late at night, and their books talk about “back in the day when polio was still around”, they can say that they were part of that history lesson.  THEY helped make it happen!  Granted, their names will be listed in any of the history books, and they won’t get fame or recognition from putting in the effort, but they will know that they were part of a movement that made the world a place where more children can thrive, more children are safe, and all children are free from the devastating effects of polio.  THAT is historical and THAT makes us part of the history that is just waiting to be written.

You can learn more about ending polio at http://www.endpolionow.org or http://www.shotatlife.org.

Our reflection in the Chicago BEAN downtown Chicago.

Our reflection in the Chicago BEAN downtown Chicago.

Taken from the observation deck at the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago.

Taken from the observation deck at the top of the Willis Tower over Chicago.

Advertisements

A Shot@Getting RESULTS in DC

Standard

Ok…so I’ve decided I stink at blogging.  My mind rarely thinks to come here to put my thoughts in writing regularly.  (obviously!)  But here I am, thinking about a week I recently spent in DC that ended with a lobbying day on Capital Hill.
.

The thrill that comes from meeting with a legislator face to face is one that is hard to explain.  So few people actually take the time to go meet with their Senators or Congressmen/women that it gives them a feel that almost seems surreal sometimes.  But having met with them multiple times now I will admit it gets easier each time.  The prep work, the waiting, the meetings and the follow-up are all just pieces of the puzzle that make the experience so great.

This time I was speaking on behalf of RESULTS and Shot@Life together.  The elimination of TB, Malaria and AIDS tie in closely with the eradication of Polio and vaccine accessibility to the worlds most vulnerable.  So I was able to speak on both and express my passion for both causes in one meeting.

IMG_1504

Me and fellow Shot@Life champ and RESULTS volunteer, Richard.

To make my point stick, I brought along visual aids to leave behind with legislators as reminders of what kids here in the US want for kids in developing countries.  I asked children at local vacation bible schools to write down what they wanted to give a child a shot at doing if they could.  The strips of paper offered suggestions like riding a bike, eating ice cream and getting hugs.  Each of these strips were thoughtfully written out by hundreds of children and carried to DC by me to offer as a reminder of the world’s smallest victims and why they deserve to have a voice used for them.   I was told that it was the most original leave behind that Congressman Roskam’s office had received before!  (Which means it did what it was supposed to!)

IMG_1538

Fellow RESULTS volunteers in Roskam’s office leaving behind the wishes of kids supporting Shot@Life from Palatine.

When you walk on the Hill from office to office you pass people in the halls who are making their mark on history.  You pass doors that enter to rooms where history was already made.  You feel the history pulsing through the walls and you know that you are part of that because you used your voice to influence, educate and persuade leaders to look at things differently and sometimes, even change their minds.

It really is an experience that I wish everyone could have.  But so few do.

IMG_1539

I met with my Congressman’s office with an aide while I was in DC.

Did you know that they (legislators) actually LIKE when constituents come in to tell them what matters to them?  Did you know that they want to hear from you?  Did you know that they listen to what you have to say?  You matter because they work for YOU.

Someone told me recently that less than 5% of Americans actually have met with their legislators… not sure where that stat comes from or if it is even accurate, but it sounds about right based on the population of people I know.  Not sure why that number is so low because a lot of people I know have a great deal to say about a lot of things, but it seems they don’t actually take that next step of saying it to the right people.

Whether it is a letter to your congressional leaders or a visit on the Hill, your opinion matters and is valuable.  I encourage you all to use it and use it often.  They more they hear from you, the more they listen… (most of the time).

You don’t have to go to DC to talk with your congressional leaders.  You can stay in your local district and talk with them when they are home.  A congressional recess is about to start in DC… which means your senators and representatives will be “home” for a bit.  So why not make an appointment to let them know what matters to you.  Take your kids along!  They are constituents too (and one day, they will vote!).  Let them tell what is important to them, too!  I promise you, you wont’ be sorry you did!

On a final note, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes you just get a moment of “wow” when you get the chance to meet someone you have worked with from a distance that has been a champion for many of your causes and makes a difference for things you care about.  I had that “wow” moment in DC during this visit while waiting for a meeting with a group of RESULTS volunteers to see an aide in Senator Mark Kirk’s office.  While we waited in his office he actually entered the door and took the time to talk with us and take a photo, at our request.  Having suffered from a stroke his mobility was limited, however, he made the meeting all that much more impressive at his desire to shake every hand, make a connection and stand for a photo.  Again, that was a “wow” moment in my advocacy journey – I won’t lie.

So what will you do to get your “wow” moment?  What will it take to get you to make the call and set up that meeting?  When it hits you, don’t hesitate…make the appointment, go to the meeting and go WOW your legislators with your passion for whatever it is you are passionate about!  I promise you, they want to hear from YOU!

IMG_1517

The IL RESULTS volunteer delegation with IL Senator Mark Kirk in DC.

A Letter to My Daughter

Standard

After seeing the documentary, Girl Rising, I felt I had a few things to say to my daughter…. and, well, everyone else too.  If you have the opportunity to see the film – male or female – please do.  It will change you.  I promise.

Dear Daughter –

Holding my daughter for the first time!

Holding my daughter for the first time!

On the day you arrived into my life, nearly 13 years ago (5 weeks before you were due to arrive!), I knew I was so incredibly blessed.  Your tiny little fingers, your 10 perfect toes, you bright blue eyes.   My first thought was sheer happiness and joy and my second thought was filled with terror and fear.  How could I possibly raise this gorgeous little person to be the best that you could be?  What if I messed up?  Who would you become?  Where will you end up?

I will admit.  I was terrified.

Then you went off to your first day of school a few years later…and that had to be one of the most terrifying days yet… how could the school possibly know how to take care of you as well as I did?  How could I possibly let you head out into the world without me?   But you know what?  You’ve done great!  You have grown into a wonderful young lady that values what you have in life.  I am so very proud of you!

So…as I was watching Girl Rising and learning more about girls in other nations I realized that my concerns, while real to me, are dreams of other mothers.  These are dreams only some could hope for one day.  The chance to even send their daughters to school is beyond their reach and their fears are exponentially greater than anything I will ever imagine in my worst nightmares.

With that being said, YOU really are one of the lucky ones.  When you get up at 6:30am every day to get ready for school, (which I know you hate!) you are lucky.    You have the chance to learn, and grow, and expand your future.  There are girls around the world that will never have that chance.  They will never learn to read and get lost in a book like you can.  They will never learn to write and share their creative mind on paper like you do.  They will never excel in science, or play the viola in an orchestra, or learn the difference between Monet and Van Gogh.

So, just as a gentle reminder… never, ever waste that chance.  Never ever think it doesn’t matter.  And never ever take for granted the opportunities you have because not everyone has that same chance.  You, my daughter, will go on to be incredibly successful in life.  You can choose what you want to do and, better yet, there is no limit to what you can do!  You can be anything you want to be, and I hope you do the things you love the most…be an astronaut, a teacher, a coffee barista, a doctor, a or even President, I don’t really care, but the point is that you have a choice.  However, the one thing I do hope, in whatever you chose to do – I hope that you will be a change agent in the world that we live.  I hope that you will see the greater good and use your voice to change the things you don’t agree with and help others who cannot help themselves.

Her fist day of school!

Her fist day of school!

You are a beautiful person, inside and out.  You have a heart of gold and a conscious to go along with it.  You can always find the best in others.  You bring sunshine into a room and you make me smile at the sound of your laugh.  Never forget that you are smart – smarter than you think – and you should never waste a second of an opportunity to learn something more and make change around you.  I can attest that learning never stops.   I am still learning new things every single day!

In the film there was a little girl named Wadley.  I imagine you and her would get along well.  Wadley refused to be denied the chance to go to school after her family was hit by hard times and could not pay for it.  And you know what, Wadley got to go to school because she knew it was where she belonged.  She wanted a better life.  And she knew that her education would help her get there.   Education can unlock so many things for you, too – never forget that.

Just remember, there are girls around the world who will never step foot into a school – ever.  They will be sold into slavery by the age of 6 and by the age of 11 or 12 their family will marry them off.  They will be mothers by age 13.  That is how old you are now.    Can you imagine?

You are one smart cookie, kiddo.  I already know that you know how lucky you really are.  Motherhood is a scary world – but with a kid like you, it’s full of rainbows and sunshine!  Thanks for being a great kid who knows the value of your education and the opportunities that you are given.   I can’t wait to see where it takes you one day!

I love you with all my heart…and more!

Mom

Image