International Youth Day 2020: Youth Engagement for Global Action

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

August 12, 2020- Many deserve recognition right now for contributions they are making in their communities amidst current daily unpredictabilities. But on Aug. 12, we recognize all youth change makers, near and far. International Youth Day has been recognized by the United Nations since 1999, and this year’s theme is Youth Engagement for Global Action. Thanks to continuous advancements in technology, having a global voice for action is more possible than ever, and young people everywhere are taking advantage of it.

From volunteering their time with local organizations in high school and college, to attending rallies for causes they believe in, to using their social media accounts as a platform to spread messages about global issues,  young people today have a great desire to create social change both locally and globally. One issue that local youths have taken on in the past is called the “Measles Initiative” at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio.

“The Measles Initiative” at this school was inspired by the American Red Cross Measles and Rubella Initiative, which is able to use a $2 donation to save the life of a child by providing vaccinations all around the world. By 2017, the young group at Gilmour Academy had already raised $30,000 to provide thousands of children with vaccinations that would allow them to grow up to one day make their own marks on the world.

Measles & Rubella Immunization Campaign Kenya 2018

September 27, 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. Prince Osinachi receives a measles-rubella vaccine in Nairobi, Kenya. The Red Cross has educated me and my neighbors about the importance of our children receiving vaccinations. My son was 4 months late receiving one of his measles doses, so I was afraid of taking him to the health center but the volunteer convinced me to go, says Prince’s mother, Lydia Odinga. Lydia received a visit from Red Cross volunteer, Felista Njenga, who helps ensure kids in the dense urban community receive lifesaving vaccines such as those for measles and rubella. I volunteer because, as a mother, my desire is to have a healthier community free of diseases, says Felista. Local Red Cross volunteers go door-to-door to identify children who are missing routine immunizations, update vaccination records at local health centers, encourage parents and caregivers to have their children vaccinated, and follow up with families to confirm receipt of the recommended vaccinations. Each year in Kenya, more than 350,000 children miss their scheduled routine vaccinations leaving them vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and rubella. The American Red Cross and the Kenya Red Cross have been working together to strengthen community-level routine immunization systems in both rural and urban counties. Measles is one of the most contagious and severe childhood diseases. Every day, it takes the lives of hundreds of children around the world. Even if a child survives, measles can cause permanent disabilities, such as blindness or brain damage. But there is hope. Since 2001, the American Red Cross and our partners in the Measles & Rubella Initiative have vaccinated more than 2 billion children around the globe. The Red Cross plays a pivotal role in vaccination campaigns worldwide: local volunteers use mass media, rallies, door-to-door visits and educational entertainment to reach families who do not have access to routine health services.

Measles is one of the most contagious childhood diseases in the world. Measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000. However, it continues to kill hundreds of thousands worldwide per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Accessibility to vaccinations is crucial, since even if a child survives after having the disease, they will most likely have permanent disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss, deafness and more. Over 20.3 million lives have been saved thanks to measles vaccinations, and efforts like the “Measles Initiative” from Gilmour Academy students keep that number rising. The overwhelming majority of cases occur in children, and the students at Gilmour Academy have made a great impact as young change makers protecting their future fellow change makers from this deadly disease.

Mexico Earthquake Resiliency Program 2020

Worldwide cases of measles have decreased significantly over the years thanks to lifesaving and cost-effective vaccinations. If you’re interested in celebrating International Youth Day 2020 by donating to the Measles and Rubella Initiative to provide vaccinations to children around the world, click here for more information.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Effort to Eradicate Measles Worldwide Continues

By Brad Galvan, American Red Cross volunteer

Although August is National Immunization Awareness Month, the American Red Cross’s work crosses international borders with its Measles & Rubella Initiative, the Red Cross partners with global organizations on this vaccination campaign aimed at reducing measles worldwide.


Measles, one of the most contagious and severe childhood diseases is very dangerous to those who are not immunized. The disease can be debilitating and even deadly. The only true method to prevent the disease is to protect children with the measles and rubella vaccine.

Jessica Tischler, Director of International Services for the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, said the goal of the Measles & Rubella Initiative is simple: Get children vaccinated to prevent the onset of measles. “It’s worked,” Jessica said. “With the help of partners like the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, more than two billion children have benefited by the vaccine.”  She noted that there has been a nearly 80 percent reduction in cases resulting in more than 20 million deaths potentially prevented from the disease.measles3

Locally, students at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills have been collecting money to fund the measles vaccine, which costs $2 per shot. Since the start of their fundraising effort in 2004, the Gilmour students have raised more than $30,000.  We posted this article about the efforts of the students last year.

All Northeast Ohioans can help protect children in remote villages across the world without leaving their state. Simply text PREVENT to 90999 to give $10 to the Red Cross, donate online, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.  Your gift will help children receive the lifesaving vaccine against measles



Gilmour Students Tackle Global Health Issue

By Anmol Nigam, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer


In the year 2000, a public health milestone was reached. It was the year measles was eliminated from the United States.  Nearly ten years later, students at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio decided there was still more to be done. While eliminated locally, measles was still causing half a million deaths every year around the world.  The students knew that for every dollar raised for the American Red Cross Measles and Rubella Initiative, the life of a child could be saved. Inspired by that work, a group of seniors at Gilmour formed their own “Measles Initiative” to help out. Since the foundation of the student organization, the group has raised a total of nearly $30,000 to provide children with life-saving vaccines.

Gilmour Mathematics Instructor Karen Roxbury serves as the club moderator for the Measles initiative club. She explains that her role is minor compared to the efforts of her students.

“The student members plan and execute all aspects of the fundraising activities.  It is their passion that allows us to raise funds to support health initiatives in the world,” Roxbury said. “ I have so much respect and admiration for their dedication.”

The Measles Initiative fundraises through three yearly events: a halloween costume contest, a valentine’s day candy-gram, and a used clothing sale. Those familiar with the organization say that the club helps children in more ways than one.

“Measles is a great way for young people to get involved with big issues,” explained recent graduate Hannah Kirchner in an interview with the Gilmour Lancet.

For big issues like this, it takes global coordination. In 2001, the Measles & Rubella Initiative was announced to stop child death from measles or disability from congenital rubella syndrome.

The Initiative was founded by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the CDC, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The Measles & Rubella Initiative is a global partnership established to eradicate measles and rubella, saving the lives of millions of people. Working with partner organizations, the American Red Cross has increased access to vaccinations in areas with the highest risks for measles infection.

Worse than the Common Cold

Those  not vaccinated are at serious risk for infection. Without the immunity provided by vaccines, people exposed to measles have up to a 90% chance of also becoming infected. The first symptoms start 10-12 days from contact with the microscopic measles virus. This virus can easily spread through the air and starts with a high fever. Days later, a rash appears on the face and neck, rapidly spreading over the entire body within three days.

The CDC explains that “Measles can be a serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.”

Children with poor nutrition and individuals with weakened immune systems are some of the highest risk groups for these complications. 1 out of 10 of these high-risk infections results in death. Despite the high virulence of the disease, it is entirely preventable with the measles vaccination. Often, this vaccination is combined with the vaccination for rubella, which is known as “German Measles.”

Ways You Can Help

On the ten-year anniversary of the initiative’s foundation, Chief International Officer of the American Red Cross David Meltzer said, “With every dollar donated, we vaccinated another child. Across the globe, we stopped outbreaks, improved treatment and protected future generations from one of the world’s deadliest diseases. This milestone in measles control is significant and improves the overall outlook for children’s health around the world.”

The World Health Organization estimates that over 17 million lives have been saved from increased measles vaccinations. While there has been progress, increased efforts to ensure global coverage are still needed. The latest estimates show a 84% drop in measles deaths since the start of the initiative. Despite these strides in coverage, more than 430 children still die every day from this preventable disease.

You can help Red Cross efforts to eradicate measles worldwide by texting the word PREVENT to 90999 to make a $10 donation.  Or you can donate online, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, said, “We are grateful to the students of Gilmour Academy for their part in tackling this global health issue on a local level. Those who have taken part in the school’s Measles Initiative should feel good about the good they’ve done.”

Learn more about the Measles & Rubella Initiative here.



Preventing the Spread of Diseases

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has provided vaccination to more than 1.1 billion children in the fight against measles and rubella.

The American Red Cross, United Nations foundation, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and World Health Organization started the Measles and Rubella Initiative in 2001. Since then, Red Cross and its partners have vaccinated children in more than 80 developing countries.

Measles Vaccination Campaign

Measles Vaccination Campaign

In 2011, measles claimed an estimated 158,000 lives. This makes it a leading cause of death and disability among young children worldwide. This disease is highly contagious and includes the risk of developing other health complications, including pneumonia, blindness, diarrhea, and encephalitis. Measles are most common in younger children from the age of five to adults over 20. 95% of measles deaths occur in low income countries with poor health systems.

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a mild disease but can be serious for pregnant women and their children. If affected, women will give birth to a child with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). More than 1000 children globally are born with CRS each year. In many developing countries, parents do not have access to medical service that can protect their children from this fate.

Measles and rubella and CRS are preventable. The Measles and Rubella Initiative is making great strides to bring vaccines that are safe and effective to dense populations where the virus will stop circulating. Vaccinations in these areas can lead to the elimination of measles and rubella.

The American Red Cross is providing technical and financial support to 12 African countries through measles and rubella vaccination campaigns. Red Cross volunteers go door-to-door in communities to educate parents, encourage participation in the campaign, and help with registration or comforting a child.

With less than $1, you can vaccinate one child and support this effort. With help from your friends, classmates or coworkers, you can vaccinate an entire village. To donate, click here or visit for more information.