How did a small local event to help people with vitiligo in Nigeria develop into a huge global movement in less than a decade? And how did it get so much support that more than 500,000 have now signed a petition asking the UN for official recognition? This is the extraordinary tale of Word Vitiligo Day (WVD), which from humble beginnings has grown into a global day of celebration and action that takes place every June 25th in support of over one hundred million vitiligo sufferers worldwide.
Ogo Maduewesi, Founder and President of Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation (VITSAF) in Lagos, Nigeria, picked up the idea for vitiligo awareness day back in 2011. Ogo and handful of activists held the Vitiligo Purple Fun Day at the shopping mall in Lagos on June 25th 2011, in memory of late King of Pop Michael Jackson and his struggle with vitiligo. Ogo also started an online petition, which gathered 111 signatures before the end of the year. The original vision was to bring this ‘forgotten’ disease into the public eye, by raising awareness, portraying its true nature, and debunking common vitiligo myths. And from Ogo’s vision and that small but very important local event, a major global movement would grow…
World Vitiligo Day goes global
Yan Valle, CEO of Vitiligo Research Foundation (VRF) based in New York, USA, saw the potential of Ogo’s idea for an international day of action, to bring the disparate and disorganized vitiligo community together in a common purpose, and to shine a light on challenges faced by those suffering from vitiligo.
So, the global WVD campaign was launched, marketing materials designed and distributed, and promotion started in early 2012. And the UN petition found a home on its very own website 25June.org. The onset of the campaign has been fueled by Aksenov Family Foundation, whose generosity has been vital in ensuring that WVD has become a global force that’s enriched many lives and brought vitiligo onto the mainstream health agenda.
June 25th 2012 saw World Vitiligo Day mark 2 take place. This was a truly global affair. The first press conference of the campaign was organized by VRF and Prof. Torello Lotti at the University of Guglielmo Marconi in Rome. At the same time, street events took place in Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Chad, China, the Czech Republic, France, India, Macedonia, Nigeria, Russia, the UK and USA. The event surpassed all expectations: it was clear that WVD was going to be something big!
And so it proved. World Vitligo Day began a journey across the world, thanks to the idea of a different country hosting the headquarters each year. Rome, Italy (2012), Detroit, USA (2013), Chandigarh, India (2014), Shenyang, China (2015), Prague, the Czech Republic (2016), Sao Paulo, Brazil (2017), Boston, USA (2018), Hanoi, Vietnam (2019), Zagreb, Serbia (2020) all took their turn.
To this date, WVD Presidential Committee and VRF coordinate the global effort, while national and local vitiligo support groups organize conferences, walks, picnics, parades, and other events. Also, clinics and volunteer doctors offer free skin screening programs, education and consultations to the public. With all this activity comes attention – and TV channels, radio stations, newspapers and internet influencers now cover WVD.
Within just a few short years World Vitiligo Day has become one of the biggest, grassroots health events on the planet. And during that time the number of signatures on the petition has exploded – passing the 500,000 mark during 2015.
World Vitiligo Day is here to stay. It is now a major part of the calendar for the estimated 100 million people across the world who suffer from vitiligo. Thanks to World Vitiligo Day their voices will be heard and this disease will get the attention it deserves. And one day, perhaps sometime soon, we will end the hurt and find a cure for vitiligo.
In 2020, the WVD international headquarters will continue its international journey and move to Belgrade – the outspoken, proud and audacious capital city of Serbia.
The World Vitiligo Day Presidential Committee:
- Prof. Ivana Binić, MD, Director of Clinic of Dermatology and Venerology in Niš, Serbia – WVD 2020 President
- Prof. Nguyen Van Thuong, MD, Director of Vietnam National Hospital of Dermatology and Venereology, Vietnam – WVD 2019 President
- Prof. Paulo Cunha, MD, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology in Jundiaí Medical School, Brazil – WVD 2017 President
- Prof. Jana Hercogova, MD, Chairwoman Department of Dermatology Bulowka Hospital, Czech Republic – WVD 2016 President
- Prof. Xing-Hua Gao, MD, Chairman of the Dermatology Department at the No. 1 Hospital of China Medical University, China – WVD 2015 President
- Prof. Davinder Parsad, MD, Professor at Department of Dermatology PGIMER, India – WVD 2014 President
- Prof. Henri Lim, MD, Chairman Department of Dermatology, Henry Ford Hospital, President American Academy of Dermatology, USA – WVD 2013 President
- Prof. Torello Lotti, MD, Chairman Department of Dermatology, University G. Marconi of Rome, Italy - WVD 2012 President, Chair of WVD Presidential Committee
- Ogo Maduewesi, CEO and President of VITSAF, Nigeria - Vitiligo Awareness Day 2011 President, co-Founder World Vitiligo Day campaign
- Yan Valle, CEO Vitiligo Research Foundation (USA), co-Founder and spokesperson of the World Vitiligo Day campaign.
Photo: World Vitiligo Day 2020 Org Committee meeting in Madrid
For more information about World Vitiligo Day, check out a chache of WVD reports, photos and videos
To register as a volunteer and get the latest updates, please visit 25June.org
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