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Champion VoicesJune 4, 2012

Photos from Africa: My visit to Tanzania with Shot@Life

Last month, I traveled to Tanzania with Shot@Life to see the power of vaccinations for children in an area of the world where vaccines mean the difference between life and death for a child. There are so many poignant stories to share from the trip. This week, I’ll be sharing a photo narrative here on the Shot@Life blog. Check back each day for a new photo!

Outside a mud hut that served as the clinic, these moms meet once a month to weigh their babies from the scale hanging in the tree. I called this the tree of life. A health care worker held a meeting for the women using a bullhorn as they sat attentively listening to her advice. They all carried their child’s vaccination and growth card on them. Their first priority is raising a healthy, happy child and they proudly showed them off to us.

This is the view from inside the clinic. The walls were made of mud and sticks. The children were fascinated with us and peered in to see what we were doing. The only other furniture in the clinic was a wooden bench where the moms waited their turn to get their child vaccinated. The nurse had a cooler with vaccines and administered them one by one. As soon as their child got a shot, the moms ran out of the clinic before the baby could even begin to cry. Their biggest concern was getting their child protected.

We visited a classroom in Tanzania full of young children. A blackboard was painted onto the wall at the front of the classroom. There were no maps on the wall, no drawings. Nothing, but a simple schoolroom full of very happy children. You should have heard how loudly they sung for us. We shared a moment in that classroom together. It’s hard for me to imagine if nearly half the children enrolling in kindergarten this year in the U.S. were to die of diseases that could have been prevented with a vaccine. That’s how many children die each year in developing countries because they don’t get the life-saving immunizations they need. One out of every five children lack access to the life-saving immunizations that help keep children in the U.S. healthy. That could mean one out of every five children in this classroom…

A hard-working mom in the village of Tanga, Tanzania. She had just come from the field where she had used that hoe to collect vegetables. It’s hard to believe that after a long day of work to collect food for her family, this mom might have to wait hours in line to get life-saving vaccines for her children.

Thanks to life-saving vaccines, little boys like this one in Tanzania get a shot at playing outside with friends. I met some of the happiest children I’ve ever seen during my trip to Tanzania. Thanks to the United Nations Foundation and Shot@Life for taking me on this storytelling mission.

Read more about Holly Pavlika’s journey on her blog, Mom-entum. Follow Holly Pavlika on Twitter at @hollypavlika.

Photos: Holly Pavlika

Holly Pavlika