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Syracuse Students Lead Efforts to Vaccinate a Village


What do first graders and first year college students have in common? In Syracuse, they each helped the American Red Cross vaccinate a village of children against measles.

Thousands of youth around the country are forming teams made of friends, family and classmates to help raise enough money to vaccinate villages in developing countries through the Measles Initiative. For purposes of this campaign, a village of 500 children can be vaccinated for every $500 collected. In a short time, students attending Cazenovia Collage and H.W. Smith Elementary School were able to raise enough funds to vaccinate more than 1,000 children or two villages in Africa and Asia against measles.

“I believe that the American Red Cross supports the Measles Initiative because it is a way for youth to get involved and allows them to be part of something bigger than themselves,” explained Angel Rivera, youth services coordinator with the American Red Cross in central New York. “The new project – Vaccinate a Village – allows youth to be involved in an effort that is very reachable.”

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 the Work Health Organization – joined forces to form the Measles Initiative in an effort to reduce the number of deaths from this disease.

A group of students at H.W. Smith Elementary School, who are affiliated with Eastwood Rotary in Syracuse collected donations for the Measles Initiative by recycling bottles and paying for privileges, such as wearing pajamas to school.

“Their passion of helping others has spread to their families and beyond,” said Rivera. “These kids are as young as first grade and already believe in making a difference.”

The 800 students at H.W. Smith Elementary School have immigrated from more than 40 different, mostly African, nations. Supporting the Measles Initiative was an opportunity to “unite the entire school to help something bigger then themselves,” explained Principal Birnkrant. “What motivates us here at H.W. Smith (Elementary School) is our belief that by getting involved we can accomplish anything and we can be united as a school community.”

Across town, two college sophomores at Cazenovia College also collected funds to help vaccinate a village. Eric Lange and Alicia Priest engaged the campus’ Human Service club and Introduction to Human Services class to sell holiday cards, handmade jewelry and baked goods that eventually raised enough more than $500.

“I do believe that my activities have influenced others in the community and school,” explained Lange. “I was glad that I not only vaccinated a few hundred people, but that I educated my fellow Cazenovians about this preventable disease.”

Before the American Red Cross and its partners formed the Measles Initiative in 2001, more than 750,000 children worldwide died from measles each year. While the global health partnership has made significant progress in the last decade, measles still kills an estimated 164,000 people annually. For less than $1, a child can be vaccinated and the Measles Initiative can continue to drive that number down.

With help from their classmates, students of any age can easily vaccinate an entire village and put an end to this fight. Text PREVENT to 90999 to give $10 to the American Red Cross. This simple gesture will protect 10 children for a lifetime. Visit measlesinitiative.org to learn more, including how a school or youth group can start a club or project.