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Ann Arbor Student Leads a Week of Measles Education Activities

When you are passionate about a good cause, you can hold a bake sale, organize a coin war competition, or sell merchandise to raise funds to support it. When you are really passionate about a great cause, you can do all three.

That's exactly what one Red Cross youth volunteer did to educate others at her school about the threat that measles still poses to children today.

"Helping people that are in need is what makes us human," explained Leenah Safi, who is current president of the National Honor Society at the Michigan Islamic Academy and a Red Cross Volunteer. "Caring for others preserves our humanity and compassion."

Measles is one of the leading killers of children in developing countries, in fact, it is estimated that more than 450 people, mostly children, die every day around the world from this disease. In 2001, five organizations – the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and World Health Organization – joined forces to form the Measles Initiative in an effort to reduce the number of deaths from this disease.

The Michigan Islamic Academy requires that students perform 200 hours of community service to graduate. Safi began volunteering for the Red Cross her freshman year and the positive experience continues to bring her back each year to serve the community. In her sophomore year as president of the Student Government and later with the National Honor Society, Safi organized a successful Measles Initiative awareness week activity.

"One of our intentions for holding a Measles Awareness week is to get our students involved with a great community and to promote love and devotion to all those who are in need," said Safi. "The National Honor Society is proud of all the students who have contributed to the cause. "

The first activity was to educate students about the dangers of measles. Safi invited Robbie DeYoung, youth coordinator of the American Red Cross Washtenaw County Chapter, to visit her school and explain the Measles Initiative. During the presentation, they played a trivia game to keep the audience engaged. Events that followed throughout the next few days included a Measles Initiative lapel pin sale, a bake sale and a coin collection competition to raise funds for the cause.

Since she began volunteering, Safi has led an ongoing effort to increase awareness about and raise funds for those in need living outside of the United States. Leenah's work has positively impacted her fellow students at the Michigan Islamic Academy as well as countless individuals.

"Awareness is much more effective than ignorance," said Safi, "and thanks to the Red Cross it is very easy and convenient to help people in need around the world."