Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pass the bucket

IT took nearly two months before the “Ice Bucket Challenge” showed signs of morphing.

Launched last June, the campaign has a participant endure having a bucket of ice-cold water dumped on her or him. The freezing sensation supposedly resembles the numbing effect of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), where nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord deteriorate until the person dies.

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease after the baseball icon revealed his diagnosis to the public in 1939.

In the original version, one either took the Ice Bucket Challenge or donated $100 to fund research to find a cure. The version that’s currently popular involves taking the drenching, donating to ALS research, and challenging others to do the same.

Fueled by social media, the Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral. According to Rappler, donations to the U.S.-based ALS Association reached $41.8 million during July 29-Aug. 21, 2014, compared to only $2.1 million during the same period in 2013.

Yet, it seems that the Ice Bucket Challenge’s success in fund-raising is not yet matched in the educational front. Critics say there is too much focus on the spectacle of a public dousing, with some participants not connecting the act to ALS awareness or uploading only their videos and not donating to credible institutions for ALS research.

When I came across Daphne Oseña-Paez’s Aug. 20 blog post about her response to the Ice Bucket Challenge, I appreciated that she emphasized in her video and post the effect of ALS on people and their families, the importance of donating to fund medical research, and breast cancer awareness.

According to the celebrity blogger, she included breast cancer prevention in her ALS challenge because the Philippines has the highest cases in the region. Since early detection is still the best option for saving lives, Paez donated free mammograms for those in need through I Can Serve Foundation.

Asian activists have also modified the Ice Bucket Challenge to respond to local realities and needs. According to an Aug. 26 report by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Manju Latha Kalanidhi of India came up with the Rice Bucket Challenge. The rice researcher has convinced 138,000 Netizens so far to focus on feeding the hungry and not wasting water.

In Nepal, Fill the Bucket Challenge is mobilizing buckets of food and medicine for victims of flooding and landslides. In Sri Lanka, where drought and water scarcity affects communities, the Ice Bucket Challenge “insults” the suffering of those deprived of this basic, noted activists interviewed by AFP.

In its original version and various mutations, the Ice Bucket Challenge reaffirms the belief that social media can be used for good, that its reach and power to persuade and mobilize extend beyond the momentary and sensational.

Former students, colleagues and friends of Professor Madrileña de la Cerna recently banded to form a Facebook (FB) community. “MADZ,” the FB page they created, is dedicated to mobilize online help for Ms. Madz, who needs approximately P51,000 a month for her twice-weekly dialysis treatments in a private hospital in Cebu.

When she retired years back from teaching full-time at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, Ms. Madz was not just known for spreading love of history inside the classroom but also out of it. Indefatigable, she worked with nongovernment organizations and local governments to preserve and promote local history and culture.

A professional who embraced the concept of service so publicly is, by contrast, private in her personal life. Until the FB page was created by a colleague, few of us knew she shouldered her dialysis treatments for more than three years with her pension as a retired public school teacher.

Like the proverbial glass, social media can be either half-full or half-empty. The choice is ours.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s August 31, 2014 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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