“Sister Parkin Pitches In against Measles in Africa,” Ensign, Dec. 2005, 69–70
Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president, believes that when President Gordon B. Hinckley approved the Church’s commitment to the Measles Initiative, he “didn’t foresee this as just a way to protect children against measles, but as a way to give members a chance to serve.”
In addition to pledging U.S. $3 million dollars to the project, the Church has offered its buildings as vaccination centers and its members as volunteers. In an interview with the Church magazines, Sister Parkin said many members from among the more than 3,000 living in 16 branches in Mozambique participated in the Measles Initiative mass vaccination campaign held in areas outside of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, during September 2005.
“The members really became involved in the community,” said Sister Parkin. “This has helped bring the Church out of obscurity.”
Many of the young men and women and young single adults living in the campaign’s target areas went door to door, notifying people of the availability and the importance of the vaccinations. Relief Society sisters helped to manage the hundreds of children who came for the vaccinations.
“I saw women who are no different than I am,” Sister Parkin said. “They care about their children and their grandchildren. They came with children on their backs and one holding each hand. They walked the dusty road. I didn’t see any one of them drive up. They wanted their children to be well. It was because of the love mothers feel for their families and their children, who aren’t any different from my own grandchildren.”
On one day of the campaign, Sister Parkin was helping with crowd control, checking children for the ink mark indicating those who had received the vaccination. One young boy didn’t have the mark. Through her translator, Sister Parkin asked why he hadn’t received his shot. He said he was afraid. “Will you go if I go with you?” Sister Parkin asked. He agreed.
“It was a sweet experience,” Sister Parkin recalled after returning from the trip. “Maybe I’ve helped one child. It was life changing for me.”
More than nine million children were vaccinated during the vaccination campaign in Mozambique. The campaign was the second in which Sister Parkin has participated because of her role on the Church Welfare Committee. She also visited Ethiopia as part of the Measles Initiative in 2004.
Sister Parkin said part of her role was “to see that it really does come together the way it’s planned.”
Months of preparation precede a mass vaccination campaign. A full-time missionary couple, Elder Blair and Sister Cindy Packard, served a specialized four-month mission to lay groundwork for the September 2005 campaign in Mozambique. Part of their work was to publicize the event. They worked closely with Maria de Lourdes Mutola, an 800-meter gold medalist at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, who is from Mozambique.
Elder DeMoine and Sister Joyce Findlay served as the missionary couple to coordinate the vaccination campaign in Ivory Coast—originally scheduled for September 2004, but postponed until August 2005 because of civil unrest. More than 700 members participated in the Ivory Coast campaign, which vaccinated nearly eight million children. Members helped educate and mobilize the population; printed posters, flyers, and stickers; participated in crowd control; stamped immunization records; and in some cases helped administer the vaccine.
Materials and ideas have flowed freely between campaigns. Artwork created in Ivory Coast was used in Malawi and Tanzania. A radio spot developed in Madagascar was used in Ivory Coast.
“I feel blessed to be a member of the Church, which cares not just for its own members but for everyone,” Sister Parkin said. “It’s truly amazing. I’m grateful that I can tell my grandchildren what kind of church we belong to.”