Social media gives us a platform to use our voice for positive change. Last year for my 37th birthday, I mobilized a campaign to raise money to support Charity: Water’s clean water project in Ethiopia. I asked all of my Twitter followers to make a donation and spread the word through Twitter and Facebook. We raised $92,568, bringing clean water to 4,628 people, 928 families in 19 communities. It was the best birthday present I could have ever asked for.
As a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, I again went to Twitter after the Haiti earthquake to challenge major corporations and organizations to match my donation of $50,000. The Twitter challenge garnered enough visibility to receive dollar-for-dollar matches from three organizations and double matches from two others. This resulted in $400,000 dollars for UNICEF to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake.
I’m also an Ambassador for the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an advocacy and resource mobilization initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Most people don’t know that 1.4 billion people have one or more neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These diseases blind, disfigure, and stigmatize its victims, but there is a solution. Just 50 cents can treat an individual for many of the most common NTDs for an entire year. All it takes it pocket change. What was the last thing you bought for 50 cents?
There are many opportunities to spread awareness of global health issues through social media tools like Twitter. I’m optimistic that with the right campaign we can mobilize people to learn about how we can improve people’s lives. This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report on NTDs, and while the report highlights successes in combating many of this diseases worldwide, it is evident that there is much more that needs to be done.
I’m optimistic about successes we’ve had in global health and development. But how can we spread the word? The ONE Campaign’s Living Proof project highlights the incredible stories of individuals whose lives have been saved because of interventions that work.
We can use the success highlighted in Living Proof and spread them through social media to educate and inform people that while we still have a ways to go to rid the world of disease and poverty, we are moving in the right direction.