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Terminally Ill Teen Takes On Sexual Assault

Many might think the final tasks terminally ill patients would set out to complete would be those of the typical bucket list (i.e. skydiving, traveling the world, getting to know an idol). But 17-year-old Eva McGauley’s final wishes are a bit different.

McGauley, who was diagnosed with rare nasopharyngeal cancer in 2015, wishes to devote her time to helping young people be more active in campaigning for issues they’re passionate about. For her, supporting sexual assault survivors was the issue closest to her heart.

In an effort to further this cause, McGauley founded a charity, Eva’s Wish, asking for help in “ending sexual violence and supporting survivors.” ​The idea for the foundation came to McGauley after spending five months in chemotherapy, and ultimately, after receiving the diagnosis that the cancer had spread and become terminal. Questions arose for the then-16-year-old concerning her bucket list. “It was just a spark at first,” McGauley said, “an idea existing purely in my subconscious.” But McGauley wanted to “change the world” and soon the ultimate goal for Eva’s Wish had surfaced – to give New Zealand an online messaging service for people affected by sexual violence.

So far, Eva’s Wish has raised over $56,000 for HELP: Auckland, the biggest service provider for sexual abuse survivors in New Zealand. McGauley praises the work HELP does for these survivors. “They’re there to hold your hand, tell you what to expect in the days and weeks to come,” she said, “and support you as you go through medical examinations, police interviews, and through the court system. HELP also works hard every day to end sexual violence.”

McGauley’s passion for fighting for the issues she believes in began early on in her life. On a detailed page on the Eva’s Wish website, McGauley describes the moment in which her determination to help change the world was first sparked. “It was the afternoon I went to my [high school] Feminist club for the first time,” she said. She had felt as if she’d just been “brought into a world of amazing, strong women and men who believed that what we thought and said had value. We also began to learn about some of the horrors of this world and I became determined to fix them.”

“You might be wondering why someone so young is passionate about sexual violence,” said McGauley on her initial fundraising page, on the Spark Foundation’s fundraising site, Give A Little. “I’ve seen first-hand just how destructive sexual violence is. It breaks my heart to have to tell you that most of my friends have been sexually assaulted.”

The charity that McGauley started with her supportive family now has its own team and continues to grow, gaining followers on its social media sites and tracking the foundation’s progress and milestones on its official website.

McGauley’s contributions for this cause and Eva’s Wish have not gone unnoticed. The New Zealander teamed up with Lonely, a New Zealand-based design house that focuses on celebrating the “strength and individuality of women.” She is featured in its current journal series Lonely Girls. The journal series, which features unretouched, “candid portraits of inspiring women in their own spaces wearing Lonely, their way,” has also photographed major public figures like Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke, according to Refinery29.

McGauley is also featured in the book 200 Women: Who Will Change the Way You See The World by Blackwell & Ruth, to be published in October of 2017. The book features over 200 original interviews and portraits, designed to be an “exhibition about equality,” as explained by the book’s publisher. McGauley was chosen because, as Geoff Blackwell of Blackwell & Ruth said, “​Eva represents humanity at its best. Courage, generosity, kindness and selflessness.”

McGauley continues to inspire so many, fighting for causes she believes in so passionately, while simultaneously fighting cancer. “When you know your days are numbered, it really makes it clear what matters to you,” McGauley said. “Sure, I could pin my hopes on meeting my favorite actress, or traveling the world, but what I really want is to make a positive difference that will still be helping people’s lives after I am gone – to give more in life than than I have taken.”

Featured Image by Wyoming National Guard on Flickr
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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