Last week, I wrapped up a whirlwind 7-day, 10-campus tour of the Northeast to meet with student leaders interested in getting involved with the END7 campaign. I met hundreds of students and faculty from Boston University, Northeastern, Boston College, Tufts, Brown, Fordham, New York University, Brooklyn College, St. John’s, and Hofstra. At every campus I visited, I found students – many of whom had never heard of NTDs before my presentation – who were eager to help us reach our goal to see the end of NTDs by 2020. At every campus I visited, the question I heard most was “How can we help?”
To respond to this question, I drew insight from a presentation I gave earlier in the week at the Millennium Campus Conference – a student conference focused on making contributions to international development more effective and sustainable. My answer took the form of: “How to Change the World in Four Simple Steps,” and I shared this advice with the students I met throughout the week as we brainstormed together about how to involve their campus community in END7.
Step one: Understand what you are trying to change. The first step to supporting END7 is to educate yourself and peers about NTDs. Many students had never heard of these diseases before, so I directed them to all of the educational material produced by END7 – from fact sheets to videos to this very blog – and encouraged them to share this information as widely as possible to help get NTDs into the public consciousness.
Step two: Decide how you can best contribute. The students I met were full of ideas about how their campus could contribute to the NTD elimination effort – from signing petitions to advancing research to fundraising for END7. I was excited to add their ideas to the END7 Students page and look forward to hearing more fantastic ideas from our student advocates as this movement spreads from campus to campus.
Step three: Bring people in. NTD treatment needs to be integrated into endemic countries’ larger health and development programs to scale up to the level needed to control and eliminate them by 2020. On a smaller scale, education, advocacy and fundraising for END7 can be integrated into existing campus programs. Seek out partners at every step. I told students to ask faculty who research global health to advise your group, team up with an academic department to host an educational event, partner with a service club, Greek organization, or sports team to make fundraisers more successful, or reach across campus boundaries to team up with the university across town! The movement against NTDs can’t accomplish its goals without a large number of partners – NGOs, academics, international bodies, and national governments – and students also need to form partnerships on the ground to make their efforts more effective. I invited students to join the END7 Students Facebook group to connect and collaborate with students across the globe who are joining our team!
Step four: Keep up the good work. So many incredible, well-intentioned efforts – from huge international development projects to innovative student clubs – fail because they are not designed to be sustainable over the long term. Focus on creating something that will last, I told students, because the cold truth is that you will graduate one day, and you will need others to continue the work you have started. That truth hit home for me when I graduated from Notre Dame in May after being involved with ND Fighting NTDs for four years. Thankfully, the amazing student leaders of that group have kept the club going strong, and just wrapped up the fourth annual NTD Awareness Week on campus. ND Fighting NTDs has continued at Notre Dame because we consciously sought out student leaders of every class year and major to create a sustainable base of support. Again, that magic word: partnership!
At the end of every presentation, I shared a quote by Marshall Ganz, a scholar of social movements:
“Social movements are, in the end, about changing the world – not yearning for it, thinking about it, or exhorting it. The resources a social movement can mobilize are those held by their participants – time, skills, and effort – and are matters of voluntary commitment.”
END7 will not accomplish its mission without the voluntary commitment of our supporters. Students who make a commitment to END7 – as peer educators, advocates, and fundraisers – have a vital role to play in this movement. I was so lucky to meet two hundred of them last week, and I can’t wait to meet even more!
If you’re a student, a member of a faith-based group, or anyone else ready to mobilize support for NTD elimination in your community, shoot me an e-mail at Emily.Conron@sabin.org or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about getting involved!