The Harker School’s Global Empowerment Organization (GEO) begins its annual awareness and fundraising week on Oct. 17, with a kickoff assembly on Oct. 14. This year, all efforts are geared toward helping the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) save the lives of children in developing countries.
Each year, GEO tackles a Millennium Development Goal (or MDG)—this is a world problem that has been identified by the United Nations as an international concern. Usually, GEO lets its members chose one MDG to focus on, and then narrows it down to specific causes and organizations. However, because GEO Week got moved forward this year, the officers of the club had to make the choice as to which foundation they would support before the school year began.
Katie Siegel, grade 12, the GEO president, had the initial idea to support GAVI. “I came up with the idea of working with a nonprofit that distributes vaccines to impoverished nations through a two week summer intensive on foreign policy. Our group’s topic was vaccine distribution. My research there made me realize the importance of the cause, so I thought it would be great if GEO worked with GAVI, the main nonprofit that controls international vaccine distribution.” Siegel says.
The club’s Public Relations Officer, Cherry Xie, grade 12, agreed it would be an eye-opening experience. “We often hear about raising the standards of life to alleviate poverty around the globe, but we don’t usually think about the possibility of preventative measures, like giving vaccinations as a way to better someone’s life. It is much less costly than having to treat someone for a certain disease, and it can prevent families from becoming trapped in the poverty cycle—children live, and therefore can work to bring in income for the family,” Xie said.
On Oct. 14, Tim Nielander, who initially served as General Counsel for GAVI and later as Managing Director of Corporate Services, will speak to students about the GAVI Alliance, what the organization does, and why the cause is so important.
Then the week’s fundraising and awareness officially starts Oct. 17. Throughout the week, students will take vows of silence. Students who take the vow will get pledges from friends and family in exchange for maintaining complete silence for 24-hours. One raffle ticket will be given for every 20 dollars raised, which will be entered to win microbe plushies. The students will represent the children of the world who have no voice because they were not immunized and succumbed to disease.
In addition to the pledges, GEO will be selling wristbands and sport bags at lunch and after school. Candy grams (or as they’ll be called, GAVI grams) will also be available to send to friends on Halloween.
Finally, on Thursday, Oct. 20th, there will be a school-wide simulation game in which students are given lists of people they are supposed “infect.” As Xie explains, “Five GEO members in each grade will start as initial infectors. The idea is to see how many students become ‘infected’ by the end of the day. This is designed to educate students about what could happen if they were not given immunizations in childhood and understand more personally the cause we are supporting.”