While I was studying at the University of Iowa, I consistently searched for opportunities to grow and expand upon my passions: science, healthcare, and helping others. I founded and joined The ImmUNITY Campaign, a student organization on campus. After joining the organization, I learned about their partnership with Shot@Life.
I became a Shot@Life Champion for a few different reasons. First, Shot@Life’s mission is vital. Children in developing countries are dying because they do not have proper access to lifesaving vaccines. Second, I realized how incredibly lucky I was to have had access to vaccines and healthcare providers. Children around the world deserve the same access to healthcare as I had, and continue to have, today. Third, I know firsthand about the struggles that families face when their children are affected by a preventable disease. My uncle, born and raised in a rural village in Iran, was afflicted with polio. My grandparents struggled to find him proper care. Thankfully, because of their persistence, he is alive and well today living with minimal paralysis. However, many families are not so lucky. Finally, Shot@Life provided an outlet for me to grow and expand upon my passions. Not only do I have a significant opportunity to help others, but I also have the privilege of learning about essential vaccine technology, scientific advances, global health initiatives, and public health endeavors.
You have been a champion for many years and attended several Champion Summits in Washington, D.C. What moments have been particularly meaningful to you?
Every Champion Summit that I attend is special and meaningful in its own way, whether it is the new advocates or staffers that I meet or new concepts I learn through lectures given by professionals in the public health or political fields.
I have also loved getting to know my fellow Champions, especially those in my Illinois group. They are such strong, educated, supportive women; I always look forward to advocating with them.
My fondest moment, though, is one that I remember vividly from my very first Summit. I had never been to D.C. prior to this Summit, and my first day on Capitol Hill was incredibly inspiring. Thousands of people, from all walks of life and organizations, were present that day to advocate for causes that were meaningful to them. I learned a very important lesson that day: never give up on fighting for what you believe in. Our members of Congress, and their staffers, are much more accessible than we think. We can easily fight and advocate to enact change, as long as we are present and persistent.
You have been a Shot@Life champion both as a student and now as a businesswoman, and in two different states. Why has it been important to you to stay involved as a Shot@Life champion?
I could not imagine leaving my advocacy work with Shot@Life behind. There are still millions of children worldwide who desperately need access to lifesaving vaccines. They deserve the same access to vaccines and proper healthcare as we have here in the US. It’s up to us, those who have a voice and a means to help, to fight for these children and their families. I will continue to be involved and advocate for life-saving vaccines until there are no children left behind.
Could you please tell us a little about your successful fundraising efforts via Instagram?
On Giving Tuesday, I wanted to be a bit more creative with my fundraising efforts. I decided to use the polling feature on Instagram Stories to poll my followers for a fundraiser. The poll asked, “Can I Venmo request you for a donation?” with a “yes” or “no” answer option. Dozens of my followers wanted to donate to Shot@Life! For those who answered “yes”, I simply sent them a Venmo request for the amount they had authorized. All they had to do was accept my charge; it made the process really easy for them! After I gathered all of the donations, I sent it into Shot@Life myself rather than having my followers go through that process. In return, I posted names and accounts of each follower who donated, with an accompanying thank you message, to my Instagram Story. Those personal shout-outs definitely motivated others to donate, as well. Ultimately, using Instagram and Venmo as a donation platform was a great way to engage millennials, raise funds, and start a conversation about lifesaving vaccines!
My heart was SO full! I truly did not think I would get the response that I did, but my friends and followers really surprised me.
What would you tell others about getting involved with vaccine advocacy?
Becoming a Shot@Life Champion is one of the best decisions I have made. Since I joined, I have learned so much more about global health initiatives, public policy, global needs, and emerging vaccine technologies and delivery methods.
I have met so many wonderful, passionate, inspiring individuals who share the same goals and interests. If you have even the slightest interest in becoming an advocate for lifesaving vaccines, don’t think twice about it. Get involved!