Acclaimed illustrator Sophie Blackall visited us at CDC on Monday, April 22, to share insights from her extraordinary collaboration with the Measles & Rubella Initiative. Her presentation at the World Immunization Week symposium, “Let Every Child Have a Name: the Road to a World Without Measles,” described her journey to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where she met and spoke with families and health workers affected by measles.
Clearly touched by her experiences while traveling with a vaccination team in May 2012, Blackall described how she used her camera to record detailed images of the people and immunization activities in remote villages that later inspired her artwork.
“I was completely blown away by these volunteers,” she told the audience of CDC employees and more than 60 invited guests from Lions Club International Foundation and the American Red Cross; both organizations are some of our partners in the Measles & Rubella Initiative, which commissioned Blackall’s work. “It’s impossible not to want to save all of [the children]. I’m so in awe of the work you all do…. My role in this is to tell your story—and it’s an honor and a privilege to do it.”
Our guests had an opportunity to tour the CDC Museum and visit the SHARE gift shop before the symposium, which also included remarks from Mr. Haynes Townsend, Past International Director, Lion’s Club International Foundation; Mr. Ruben L.C. Brown, a media specialist at the American Red Cross; our own Dr. Lisa Cairns, who provided a global update on the elimination of measles and rubella; and Mr. Harold Brooks, Senior Vice President for Global Programs, American Red Cross, who summed everything up by saying, “This initiative has magic to it.”
Following the presentations, we enjoyed an exhibition of Blackall’s delightful illustrations at a reception in the Tom Harkin Global Communications Center, with refreshments generously provided by the CDC Foundation.
What’s next for this talented artist? A visit to India to accompany UNICEF staff on vaccination campaigns is already on her agenda, and after that she hopes to start working on an interactive project designed to renew U.S. parents’ “sense of urgency” about and commitment to childhood immunization right here at home. We can hardly wait!