No Contribution Too Small: Youth Supporting PIVOT
Over the five years since PIVOT’s founding, young people wanting to get involved in our work has given rise to a quietly-growing cohort of youth within our base of support. This started when the eldest son of co-founders Jim and Robin Herrnstein made the first-ever official donation to PIVOT in 2013. At age seven, Michael Herrnstein generated $31 by recycling cans and sent the money to PIVOT with a letter indicating his support. Far from insignificant, the funds produced by his efforts represent enough funds to provide life-saving medicines for up to 37 people in Ifanadiana District, or to ensure a supply of fortified nutritional foods for the treatment of a malnourished child over 3 months.
For the past five years, the Herrnsteins have made a concerted effort to keep their family close to the work, bringing all five of their children (pictured below) to Madagascar to establish their own first-hand experiences and connections in the field. Multiple times now, the Herrnsteins and other board members’ children have made presentations to their classmates about PIVOT, organized drives at their school, and collected things like coats and pencils to distribute to school-aged children in Ifanadiana District.
The unanticipated and delightful consequence we’ve seen has been other members of our community of supporters following suit.
Surely in part due to the steady popularity of the animated DreamWorks films well-known among young kids and their parents, there is something about the idea of “Madagascar” that seems to ignite curiosity in kids. In many cases, eyes widen upon learning that Madagascar a real place, not just a cartoon. From there, the interest grows.
In fact, the film was adapted for a stage production called Madagascar Jr., of which productions are frequently put on by youth theater troops across the U.S. and Europe. This has served as an entrypoint for young actors and their audiences to engage with PIVOT. Our work provides a real-world link between the jovial theatrics and the realities of need in Madagascar, and an opportunity to marry arts with activism. Over the course of 2018, three different productions of Madagascar Jr. collected donations for PIVOT before and after their shows, resulting in both monetary and in-kind contributions to our programs.
In one salient example, 7th grader Mikayla Gigliotti (right) – who began supporting PIVOT through a Crowdrise campaign that raised nearly $1,000 in 2017 – reached out to ask if she could organize a drive, and what PIVOT teams needed in terms of supplies. When our social support team expressed a need for toothbrushes for an upcoming school-based oral hygiene campaign, Mikayla took off running. In the following weeks, she collected over 500 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste that were distributed to a primary school in the town of Ranomafana, where PIVOT offices sit.
It’s important to us that kids understand that what they do makes a difference, and that there is a space in global health for youth to play a part. In Madagascar, where per capita spending on health care tops out at $14 a year, a little can go a long way. And, especially for young people, we believe that making connections and increasing understanding across cultures is invaluable.
From kids asking for donations to PIVOT in lieu of birthday gifts, to high school global health clubs fundraising on our behalf, to youth groups who travel to Madagascar toting medical supplies, we have been the fortunate recipients of the enthusiasm and energy that conscientious kids of all ages have to offer. These remarkably selfless and globally-minded acts coming from young people give us hope for a bright future.
We are grateful for and inspired by the vibrant youth in our community, and look forward to seeing what they’ll come up with next. If you or a kid you know is interested in supporting PIVOT, we’d love to hear from you.
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