Czarina Alfonso, 17, of Clifton, New Jersey, a junior at Academy of the Holy Angels, started a program that has provided free pneumonia vaccinations to hundreds of daycare-age children in the Philippines over the past two summers. As the daughter of Filipino parents, Czarina has visited the Philippines during her summer vacations and seen firsthand that many people there do not have ready access to health care. She also appreciated the importance of vaccines, having watched her father struggle with polio. Those two experiences led her to develop a program called “Give It a Shot,” which raises money to vaccinate Filipino kids in need against pneumonia, one of the leading causes of death in the island nation. “This program helps me to do something meaningful for the country where the majority of my family lives, and for my heritage,” said Czarina.
She initially conducted extensive research to determine which vaccine would do the most good. Then, during her freshman year in high school, she raised $8,000 to vaccinate 145 children. She coordinated with health officials in the province of Antipolo Rizal to disseminate information about the vaccinations and obtain parental consent. Then she found a local pediatrician to store the vaccine and administer the shots. The next year, Czarina raised enough money for 200 vaccinations. Each summer, she attends the vaccinations and assists in filling out paperwork and calming the children after they receive their injections. “I remember a mother hugging me after her son and daughter were vaccinated, and explaining how they had walked two hours in the heat to come to my program,” said Czarina. “That made me realize how much of a difference it was making.”