A Mother's Day Gift

May 08, 2016

By: Abbey Turtinen, Associate, External Relations

On Mother's Day, celebrated May 8 in the US, we give much deserved credit to the wonderful women in our lives. This year, we are proud to have mother-daughter duo Jan and Emma Reiss conquering Kilimanjaro together. They join Summit to see the END 2016 not only to share in the experience, but to climb on behalf of all the people affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Read more about Jan and  Emma and a special Mother's Day gift.

By: Jan Reiss

These days, I focus a lot on gratitude. I am deeply aware of my good fortune as a person with a loving family, a home surrounded by green space, access to nutritious food, and good health—or as good as can be expected for a person my age. As a citizen of today’s world, I know I can’t take my good fortune for granted. I try to acknowledge and appreciate it every day. 

This Mother’s Day, like every day, I am grateful. But this year I will be receiving some special gifts: spending time in beautiful Tanzania with my amazing daughter, helping give other mothers the chance to see their children grow up healthy, and becoming part of a community of like-minded people working to improve the lives of people living in poverty.

Jan and Emma

To this end, I’m climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro this July with my daughter, Emma, to raise money for the END Fund’s important work. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect some 1.6 billion people worldwide, especially in Africa. But it costs just 50 cents per person per year to treat them. How many other diseases can you say that about? Raising money for this cause struck me as a no-brainer. I felt that I had to be a part of ending the neglect. Reaching our goal of raising $20,000 will help treat 40,000 people for an entire year. That seems worth any physical discomfort I might experience climbing the mountain. 

I first learned about a couple of these diseases many decades ago when I lived in Kenya. But I hadn’t known then that there was such a thing as “neglected” diseases. I hadn’t known then that there was such a thing as diseases of poverty. Sure, I knew about poverty—I had visited a Nairobi slum, for instance—but I didn’t understand in any real way the impact that poverty has on so many aspects of people’s lives, including—and especially—health. Over the many years since then, I have learned about the dramatic improvements in people’s lives that can result from targeted public health efforts.  

Recently, through my job in the Office of Communications at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I had the honor of interviewing Ellen Agler, CEO of the END Fund, for a magazine profile. Thanks to Ellen, an alumna of the School and one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, my knowledge of NTDs turned into a passion and drive to do more—which is why I’m climbing Kilimanjaro. Undertaking this adventure with my daughter makes it all the more meaningful. 

Emma shares my desire to end the neglect, and wanted to share a few more thoughts on why we’re tackling Kilimanjaro together:

My mom touched on most of the reasons we decided to do this climb, but I personally have one more: to support her. My mom has a deep love of East Africa due to her years living in Kenya as a teenager, and an even deeper love of helping people and a desire to help change the world. I knew that once she heard of this trip, there would be no chance that she wouldn’t be a part of it. I also knew that there was no way I was letting her go without me.

I am forever thankful that I have a woman like my mother supporting me in everything I do. In committing to this climb, it’s my turn to support her. This is a journey in which we will be helping each other, along with the people the money we raise will aid. I can’t wait for the adventure to begin.


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