Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How the power of giving transformed the lives of those I loved

The cause I fight for is for a better healthy world for children, and, this journey of activism started a long time ago in my native country, Mexico.   At a very young age I started to see the suffering of children and parents from illnesses that could have been easily prevented if they only had either the economic resources to pay for medical care, or living proximity to a medical clinic. Later as a missionary, I served for 20 months in communities were some families lived in one room carton houses with dirty floors, which, unfortunately, is the perfect condition for diseases to thrive and spread.  As a nurse in my adult years, I volunteered many times to practice preventive medicine in rural areas, administrating basic healthcare and immunizations.  My work was fulfilling and I could see how helpful it was to the community as whole to bring this care to them; however, I am still saddened by the reality that there are still very many children who I was not able to reach in time, and still today the same.  I’ve decided though that instead of succumbing into feelings of powerlessness or ambivalence from witnessing the poor quality of life these, and many, innocent, sick children endure, I will do everything I can to make a difference to make sure our youth and future generations to come will have access to what they need for a happy, healthy life!  The pain of this matter is serious, but the help you and I can administer is worth investing in that heart ache because I know that this not a lost cause, just one that needs more people with hope and fight in their hearts.

Three years ago, on one of my humanitarian trips, with World Vision Mexico, I was introduced to the community of Tetzilquila, an impoverish but charming place located at the top of the mountains of the Sierra of Zongolica in Veracruz.  No roads, no thriving markets, or nearby clinic facilities existed here. Living in extreme poverty though, there were 40 families who called Tetzilquila home; the majority of whom didn’t even speak Spanish, but their native tongue, Nahuatl (Aztec language).
With the help of an interpreter I spoke with the children of this community who confided in me their aspirations to one day attend college and become teachers, nurses, doctors, and a plethora of other admirable professions, which they believed would also help their families.  These intelligent kids with their big dreams and humble homes inspired me.  Their community’s school was only one room, staffed with one bilingual teacher whom taught them from 1st to 6th grade. While the picture I paint for you may appear dismal when compared to American upbringings, this arrangement didn’t discourage these kids one bit.  Many children gladly walked from their homes and around the mountains to attend school. It is amazing to me how powerful and resilient these children are, and, how necessary it is for us to believe in them.
So with that in mind, I pledged to those children to help them become the students they wished to be, and return with the school supplies and teaching materials they needed for their minds to truly.
Later during my trip, I was informed of how in dire need the community was of better medical care. As far as I had known there was no nearby clinic, but what I learned was that as resilient and brave as these people were with their educational goals, they also feared not in endangering themselves in their journeys to receive medical care; they would climb and hike alongside the mountains, walking such long distances that lasted hours.  All these obstacles stood in the way of them, which would be difficult for those even in good health, but this journey is one only undergone if those endeavoring are in a weakened sickly condition, or bearing child, and feel they really must trudge on towards help. Truly, these were a strong people to live in such a demanding environment.
So then another dream was born! I collected and fundraised for three years until I was finally able to build the clinic in their town they so desperately needed.  September of this year, 2016, my dream was completed and the clinic was open!!
I give because I am passionate about saving children’s lives! I want children like those featured in this picture, and many others in developing countries, to receive the medical care they need and the preventative care vaccines provide, that truly will give them, a “ Shot at Life”. 
This #GivingTuesday, Shot@Life is taking on measles – one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.  Between 2000 and 2015, the measles vaccination resulted in a 79% drop in measles deaths.  Let’s continue the progress this #GivingTuesday, as we aim to get more vaccines to children around the world. Here are a few ways to get involved on November 29:

 - Get A Shot. Give 2 Shots. – Get your flu shot, or any immunization, at a Walgreens between Black Friday and #GivingTuesday and Walgreens will donate TWO life-saving vaccines. 

- Shop Ethically – Shot@Life partner, and ethical sourced jewelry company, Bloom + Grace will donate triple the vaccines for every purchase made between Black Friday and #GivingTuesday at bloomandgrace.com.

- Double Your Impact – Grandeur Peak Funds is matching all donations made to Shot@Life on #GivingTuesday up to $20,000. Help us provide 2x the measles vaccines to children around the world.

- Also you can buy my homemade Jewelry https://www.facebook.com/Jewelrythatsaves/?ref=page_internal at where and all the profits from the sales today will be donate for measles vaccines.

Monday, July 25, 2016

                           Every Child’s Life is Precious

During World Immunization Week (April 24-30) organizations around the world raise their voices to educate, promote and increase the rates of immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Why? Because every child’s life is precious!  Yet in developing countries around the world, a child dies every 20 seconds of diseases that can be easily prevented with a vaccine.  When you think that every 20 seconds a child dies (which equals 3 children per minute), 180 will die in an hour and 4320 children will die in a day.  Can you imagine 1440 children dying during your shift of 8 hours at work? I know for many of us here in United States this seems astonishing and incredible, but this is a reality for many mothers and children in developing countries.

As a former nurse, an avid educator and as an advocate for children’s health, I know the impact vaccines have in improving children’s chances to grow healthy and to get an education.  I personally witnessed firsthand the pain and sorrow of mothers when their children were suffering.  I remember their stoic faces as others held back tears while holding their dead children in their arms.  I witnessed how diarrhea took the lives of little children because their mothers did not realize they could die from it.  The sad part is that all of these childhood diseases could have been prevented with a simple vaccine.

Every year I volunteer and travel to do humanitarian missions in developing countries.  My personal focus is to educate the rural community leaders and adults about childhood diseases and of the importance of immunizations as a way to prevent these diseases in their children.  Without regard to the distances and sacrifices they bear, these parents are eager to learn and walk 5-10 hours to get to a clinic to ask for help and receive proper care.  Poverty, malnutrition and lack of education keep these little communities isolated and far away from common notice or knowledge.

I traveled to Uganda with the Shot@life teamand witnessed their Childhood Immunization Family Health Day hosted by UNICEF in the districts of Mumbende and Fort Portal after mosque and church services.  Mothers with their children lined up and waited patiently to receive medical care, some of them having walked 10-15 miles to get their children immunized.  My favorite part was talking to the mothers and listening to their concerns and worries which were not unlike ours.  I met mothers that had lost as many as five children before their 5th birthday.  Other mothers did not name their children until they were sure they would not die young.  In developing countries, many mothers never see their children live to celebrate their 5th birthday.  Instead of celebrating a birthday, they have to prepare for their child’s burial.

I talked to doctors and country representatives of Fort Portal and they told me that 386 children under the age of five will die in one day and that 141,000 children under five are lost annually.  Uganda is one of 30 countries in the world with the highest number of deaths of children in that age group.
I know these mothers and children seem a world far away from us, but they are no different than we are and each child life is precious.  Children everywhere deserve a shot at a healthy life no matter where they live.

The good news is that the worldwide measles vaccination program has resulted in a 79% drop in measles-related deaths (between 2000 and 2014)- and we, here in the U.S., can have an impact on the lives of children around the globe.  Funding for global vaccine programs is less than 1% of the total U.S. budget, but this funding helps save 2.5 million lives every year.

Vaccines don’t just prevent illness!  They give children the chance to grow up healthy, attend school, and become productive members of society.  They are a “best-buy” in global health with a low cost and a long-term payoff that extends far beyond the health of an individual child.

It is also important to remember that vaccinations are not just a global issue - vaccinations are a local and a national issue. We all are part of the human race and we have a shared responsibility for the less fortunate.  Policymakers, both here and in Washington, should stand up and support US-led global health programs, specifically those programs focused on saving the lives of children in developing countries by providing them with vaccines.

As a mother and a Shot@Life Champion Leader I know that each of us can make a difference this week!

 Join us in supporting global health by; meeting with your legislators and asking for their support in funding global vaccines programs. You can also make a donation to support the work of the UN and vaccine partners around the globe at www.shotatlife.org. 

Think about it – in the 6 or 7 minutes it took you to read this article, 18 to 21 children died of vaccine- preventable diseases.  Please, every child life is precious.  Together we can save more children!

Felisa Hilbert is former nurse from Mexico that worked and participated in many rural vaccine campaigns where she saw firsthand the pain and sorrow that many  children suffer due to the lack of vaccines and medical care. She is also a Nurses Who Vaccinate member. 
Mrs. Hilbert humanitarian mom & wife with a heart to help children in or from developing countries. Global health, poverty and  participate in education are some of her favorite passions.

1 comment: