Saturday 12 May 2018 was International ME Awareness Day, and the #MillionsMissing awareness event was held here on Auckland's Queen Street.
We'd like take a moment to share some pictures (below) and a video of the event, especially with those of you who were too ill to attend. We'd also like to take a moment to thank the events organiser, Gemma from MillionsMissingNZ and highlight a number of observations that stood out to us.
What struck me personally was how effective the campaign was at drawing in people who had no idea about ME/CFS. Many awareness efforts preach to the converted. But what made MillionsMissing so powerful was the number of people who had no idea what ME/CFS is, but walked away understanding and sympathising with our plight. These are the people we want to educate about ME/CFS, and the event did just that.
The shoes with portraits of sufferers and their stories were hard to ignore, with the majority of passers-by on Auckland's Queen Street stopping, despite the rain, to read about these people missing from society due to this terrible affliction. Drawn in by the display, organisers approached the curious public and handed them information about ME/CFS (plus bribed them with a few lollies into hearing more!).
The nurses rally was next door. But rather than drown out our event, it contributed to building our crowd and generated a real energised atmosphere. Plus, a lot of nurses stopped by to learn more, so organisers got to educate some healthcare professionals at the same time. Score!
I felt the organisers nailed the tone of the demonstration. Rather than feeling like a protest, it was a lot more passive, dispelling misconceptions that people with ME/CFS are just "lazy or crazy".
Reading the heart wrenching stories about people who can no longer play with their kids, work, raise a family, get outside their bedroom conveyed the sense that people with ME/CFS are just like anyone else, but want to get well more than anything, so they can enjoy life again.
In my years volunteering in the ME/CFS community, I cannot recall another event in Auckland which made such an impact. Not to mention #MillionsMissing was held in other cities across New Zealand!
Gemma thank you for your monumental effort making this happen here in Auckland! ME Auckland were proud to support the event and we are looking forward to cranking up the volume next year!