Community Ambassadors Share Awareness Across the Northeast
In February 2017, the Lupus Foundation of America Northeast Region launched the Community Ambassador program. The program was created to increase lupus awareness and engage the public across New York and Connecticut at wellness events, corporations, schools, religious institutions and other community settings. To date, 55 volunteers have completed the ambassador training and help to promote the work of the Lupus Foundation.
Approximately 1.5 million Americans are living with lupus, yet awareness of the disease is shockingly low. In a 2012 Lupus Foundation of America study, 73% of Americans between the ages 18-34 have either not heard about lupus or know little or nothing about lupus beyond the name. Lupus is generally diagnosed between the ages of 15 – 44 making it critical to increase awareness within this age group. The community ambassadors play a vital role in community engagement.
“We cannot wait for people to ask for information about lupus. We need to go where people live and work to discuss the signs and symptoms. The Community Ambassadors are front-line volunteers who make a big impact and work every day to further our mission,” stated Sue Gloor, Regional Director.
Since 2017, with the assistance of Community Ambassadors, the Northeast Region has fulfilled 122 educational, community, advisory, and media opportunities. “Personal stories are powerful. When we host an event at a corporation or other formal setting and an ambassador shares their story, lupus becomes real. The participants understand that this cruel disease could impact their loved ones and it becomes a call to action,” shared Monica Smith, Regional Development & Engagement Director.
The Community Ambassadors also connect on a social and support level. The group meets in person about twice a year for a refresher course and an annual potluck lunch in December. Ambassadors have formed strong connections that continue to grow through their volunteer work.
Community Ambassador Karen Miller supported the Lupus Foundation 11 times in 2018 through the program. “The ambassador program is truly empowering. Spreading awareness is making a difference. We’re educating people who may not know much about the disease. There have been countless events where people come up to me afterward and share that they lost a loved one to lupus, but didn’t understand how they suffered. Our impact is tremendous and makes us feel and know our work matters. Our voices and stories matter. People really care.”
For information about the Community Ambassador program or to schedule a wellness event at your company or community organization, email [email protected] or call 866-225-0348.