|A group of college students are saying "yes" to their favorite humanitarian organizations and traveling across the United States on bicycles in an effort to end global poverty and suffering in the world. The Yes Ride, a 4,000-mile transcontinental bicycle ride for humanitarian aid, will benefit the Emory Vaccine Center and four other organizations as 19 college students from Boulder, Colo., travel across the United States this summer. The ride began in Seattle, Wash. on June 1 and ends July 27 in Boston, Mass.
Each beneficiary was selected based on the four key United Nations Millenium Development goals to increase education; reduce extreme poverty; improve healthcare; and assist in HIV and malaria vaccine research.
Rafi Ahmed, PhD, director of the Emory Vaccine Center, welcomes the students' support.
"We are honored to have the enthusiastic support of the Yes Ride," Dr. Ahmed says. "Volunteer contributions from the Yes Rid will enable the Emory Vaccine Center to pursue innovative vaccine strategies and related research that otherwise might be difficult to fund through traditional sources."
Each participant in the Yes Ride event is required to raise $4,000. The goals of the event are to raise a minimum of $200,000 to benefit all five organizations, and to "create a moving monument that motivates humanity to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty."
Along with the Emory Vaccine Center, the other beneficiaries of the Yes Ride include International Peace Initiatives, a global network of individuals and organizations focused on women's and youth groups involved in self-help activities in Kenya; Heifer International, which provides families with resources and skills to create an expanding worldwide network; and Partners in Health, a network that provides a preferential healthcare option for the poor in countries such as Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Peru and Russia. The final beneficiary is Circles of Ten: Women for World Peace, a grassroots, non-profit organization that emphasizes the empowerment of women to create a culture of peace at home, in schools, in their communities, and in the world.
Alex Brown, director of development for the Emory Vaccine Center, says he is honored by the riders' support.
"It is truly inspiring that a group of individuals is undertaking such an ambitious test of endurance as the Yes Ride to help rid the world of the scourges of AIDS and malaria," Brown says. "At the Emory Vaccine Center, we share their passion and are committed to developing effective vaccines for HIV and malaria. Are we succeeding? Yes, and advocates such as the Yes Ride participants are playing an important role in our success."
Finding an HIV/AIDS vaccine is one of the Emory Vaccine Center's key objectives. More than 40 million people worldwide now live with HIV, and without intervention, 45 million more people could be infected by 2010.
Among its many research accomplishments, the Emory Vaccine center has:
- Developed a DNA-based vaccine candidate that proved highly effective at preventing HIV/AIDS during preclinical studies. Emory became the first university-based vaccine research center in the U.S. to have an HIV/AIDS candidate in clinical trials. Created by resident scientist Harriet Robinson and her colleagues, this vaccine is being tested in current clinical trials to determine if it generates anti-HIV immune responses in humans and could ultimately stem the AIDS epidemic.
- Developed other promising HIV/AIDS vaccine candidates, which show great potential to prevent and treat AIDS.
- Opened the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center, a community-based clinic that functions as the translational and clinical arm of the Emory Vaccine Center.
- Discovered a series of malaria vaccine candidates through the center's extensive malaria research program, headed by Mary Galinkski. According to the Center, malaria is a major global health threat, with an estimated 500 million cases annually and several million deaths, mostly children.
According to the website, www.yesride.org, the Yes Ride event is more than a bicycle ride.
"This event is not just a bike ride; it is an event that will save lives in the Third World and transform them in the First."