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I was never fond of Barbie dolls or tea parties. As a girl, I was and still am happiest when climbing, playing sports, riding bikes and working out. Some of my very traditional Texas family may have seen my behavior as unbecoming of a young lady in the 1960s. However, I believe that my grandmothers understood me. They were strong women in their own right. And I’m pretty sure that they were smiling in heaven recently as I used my physical abilities and skills to help renovate a medical clinic in Africa -- a clinic designed to save women, strong and proud women like my grandmothers and me.
I went to Africa at the invitation of the Bush Institute’s Global Health program as part of a volunteer team working to combat cervical cancer in Zambia. The Bush Institute, through the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, is helping the Zambian government renovate health clinics and improve access to cervical cancer prevention and care. Having witnessed the courage and strength of my own mother as she successfully battled cancer, it meant a lot to me to be able to help other women who have much more limited access to health care.
Our volunteer team exemplified the best of America – we were from diverse backgrounds, with complementary skills and united by a common purpose - to help save Zambian women from cervical cancer. We also shared a focused and compelling goal - to paint the interior, exterior and roof of a large medical clinic in less than five days so that President and Mrs. Bush could complete renovations and open the clinic the following week.
I was prepared. I had learned construction skills over the years from my father and a lifetime of working out had physically strengthened me. Strong skills and stamina were essential for the challenges ahead of me. This would not be a tea party!
Fortunately, our team was not doing this alone. We were joining an inspiring team of hard-working Zambians. We all became fast friends and the synergy of combining all our skills allowed the project to progress with astounding efficiency. Even David, our exceptional Zambian driver, rolled up his sleeves, grabbed a paint brush and helped. Two teams came together and in the process, we became one.
We were motivated to try to complete our work early so that we might also get to enjoy other parts of Zambia. And we did. We spoke with patients in a hospital, toured a local village, visited an orphanage and played soccer with school children. We even found a few hours to see wildlife and buy souvenirs for friends and family back home.
By the time President and Mrs. Bush arrived to join the renovation, our work was complete and we were all happy. Our group had worked hard and in the process, had grown close. By giving back, we had gained friends and our hearts had been forever touched by the people and beauty of Zambia.
Pam Jackson is an amateur athlete and avid mountain biker. She currently serves as the President of the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association. She was a volunteer bike mechanic and cyclist to support injured veterans in the recent Bush Institute’s Warrior 100 event and refurbishes donated bikes to disadvantaged Dallas children through Spokes for Folks.
14 Things to Know About the Life-Saving Work of PEPFAR on its 14th Anniversary
This weekend marks the 14th anniversary of PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President George W. Bush signed into law on May 27, 2003 as part of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003. Since then PEPFAR has saved nearly 12 million lives. Here’s a look at 14 interesting facts about PEPFAR, which has lead the progress in the global campaign to end AIDS. In 2003, at the signing of the PEPFAR legislation, less than 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were on antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV/AIDS, now 11.5 million individuals are on ART due to PEPFAR. 99.5 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women are receiving ART, a more than 40 percent increase since the beginning of 2014. This has led to nearly 2 million babies being born HIV-free to infected mothers. Since the start of PEPFAR, new HIV Infections have declined 51 to 76 percent. Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) can reduce men&rs
President and Mrs. Bush's Visit to Namibia and Botswana in Photos
They delivered a message to Congress and all Americans: lives in Africa matter.
Building on America’s Leadership in Global Health
The new administration should stay the course as a strong leader in global health. This is a bipartisan effort, as both sides of the aisle have agreed on the importance of health care investments through successive Congresses and administrations, reflecting the priorities of the American people.
7 Things to Know about PEPFAR on World AIDS Day
Today marks World AIDS Day: a day to honor those lost, celebrate the global progress made in the fight against AIDS, and commit to put an end to the disease. In 2003, at the signing ceremony for the legislation that enacted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), President George W. Bush said, “We believe in the value and dignity of every human life. In the face of preventable death and suffering, we have a moral duty to act, and we are acting.” Since then, PEPFAR has delivered life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) to 11.5 million people, and nearly 2 million babies have been born HIV-free with PEPFAR support. PEPFAR’s success contributes to a coordinated global effort to end AIDS. UNAIDS reports that since 2000, 18.2 million people have access to treatment for HIV, new infections of HIV have decreased by over 1 million infections, and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 1.4 million. There is real hope for endin