SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Two Chatham County pastors from different churches and political backgrounds are teaming up and heading to Washington, D.C. next week to advocate for vaccines in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Pastor Ashley Randall of Garden City United Methodist Church and Pastor David Allgire of Savannah’s Compassion Christian Church will be attending the annual ONE Power Summit from Feb. 23 through Feb. 25.
The event is hosted by the ONE Campaign, which is an international nonpartisan campaigning organization devoted to fighting extreme poverty and preventable diseases.
The summit’s aim is to bring activists together for training on how to advocate for and join the battle against poverty and disease impacting millions worldwide.
Pastors Randall and Allgire are both volunteers with the organization and hope to meet with members of Congress as well as other top political and policy figures.
The pastors’ goal is to convince lawmakers to vote on fully re-funding the global vaccine program GAVI, which was founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
They will be joining other representatives from all 50 states who also plan to ask lawmakers to support this effort.
“It’s a way for us to engage our government in a way that’s not abrasive,” said Allgire, who is the executive pastor of campuses and generations at his church.
“It’s a way to jump in with grace and engage the political process, which we should all do, but because it’s something that touches so many people’s hearts, it’s a way to be unified,” Allgire said.
He and Randall tell WSAV.com Now that the program has the potential to protect millions of people.
“Last year, 1.5 million people died from preventable diseases, and that’s the key — it’s preventable,” Allgire said.
He added that around 600,000 children died last year from preventable diseases, with about 1,600 kids losing their lives every day to them.
“If we fully fund GAVI, it will vaccinate 300 million people, saving 8 million lives,” Allgire said. “It’s a staggering number.”
The United States supports a fraction of GAVI, while other countries also partner with the U.S. for the program.
“As we fund GAVI, we’re able to provide vaccinations to the most vulnerable children, and then when these children are vaccinated, they’re healthy, their families are healthy, their parents are able to go to work, the kids are able to go to school, the communities are healthier,” Allgire said.
“The country itself is healthier, and it actually is a return, even economically, to the U.S. because that prevents all kinds of crazy things,” he said. “We don’t do it for that reason, we do it out of compassion and love, but this is a way for us to really show compassion to the world.”
While in D.C., Randall and Allgire plan to meet with Georgia Representatives Buddy Carter and Rick Allen to discuss their support of GAVI.
The pastors say that while they are pleased that the Trump administration has included full funding for GAVI in the budget they’ve presented, they note that as of now, it’s just a presented budget and still has to be approved by Congress.
“As people of faith, we are blessed to be a blessing, and so we are in a position of privilege,” Randall said.
“We can go into the halls of Congress, speak to our representatives and talk about what this can mean for people who will never be able to get there,” he said. “That’s what we feel like our faith calls us to do.”