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Phone-a-Thons 2014: Calling Out for Engagement

This week alone, PIH Engage is hosting more than 11 phone-a-thons and no less than 33 events and activities across the nation. Among the most inspiring stories are those of the communities and individuals unexpectedly brought together, overcoming fear, and building true solidarity around the Right to Health Movement.

As communities reach out to friends and family, we are finding that our own anger, fear, and heartache regarding the consequences of this epidemic are shared and echoed by those we love. Stephanie McKay and her team Chicago, IL gathered Sunday, October 18th and raised nearly $4,000 is less than two hours. All it took was ten friends and family and the inspiration to mobilize resources to combat this epidemic. Kirby Neuner from Williams College held the first phone-a-thon of the season. When discussing how he decided to whom he would reach out, he told me about his relationship with his grandmother:   

“I've been super close with her for a while, so it was logical that she ended up on the initial list of people I would reach out to with fundraising ‘asks,’” he said. “My fears were similar to those that everyone feels when asking for money. Because I had such a great relationship with her, I didn't want it to seem like I was taking advantage of that relationship just to get a contribution.”

When talking to Kirby, his passion is obvious. Like Maddie Bogard and Grace Kunkel who are hosting their phone-a-thon at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, OH this Thursday, October 23rd, Kirby is grounded and committed. He does this work with PIH Engage because he feels deeply that the Right to Health Movement is urgent and critical. When reflecting on his conversation with his grandmother, he said:

“I realized pretty quickly that she didn't perceive my ‘ask’ as taking advantage at all. Instead, she was really grateful that I'd contacted her, because she would not have known about the work of PIH otherwise. The fact that it was me asking was refreshing. It allowed her to connect more personally with PIH, and she was proud of me for supporting a cause that is so important.”

The media’s portrayal of Ebola can feel emotionally detached and sensational, but the devastating impact on those affected is very real. Ebola is spread when mothers care for dying children. Ebola is spread when sisters prepare brothers’ bodies for burial. Unless action is taken to fight this epidemic, the injustice of the inequity in healthcare systems in the poorest nations will continue to claim lives.

As PIH clinicians with decades of experience treating infectious disease work to refine and improve the PIH Ebola Response, it is our job, as PIH Engage, to help channel our anger and passion in the most effective way possible. When reaching out to friends and family, we are building a network of individuals who will unite around the belief that health is a human right.

Kirby added that “now, whenever I talk with my Gramma, she asks right away how things are going with PIH, and reminds me that she'd like to keep supporting their work.” By reaching out to our loved ones, we are asking them to join us in a fight that we feel is just and that ultimately can be won. As Will Sperduto put it after holding his phone-a-thon at Duke University on Monday, October 20, 2014, “we need to continue to do things that might seem uncomfortable at first—it makes us better activists.” 

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