Sometimes, an opportunity to spread awareness about global poverty and disease can be right under your nose and you don’t even realize it. That’s how I felt when my dear friend Christina Howell approached me (and my fellow ONE members Nancy Bauer and Angela Harvey) about collaborating on a World Malaria Day event at Marietta First Baptist Church. Christina’s husband, Paul, is an internationally-recognized mosquito expert for the Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource Center (MR4) at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. Paul had given a presentation about mosquitoes to Marietta First Baptist Church preschool, and the kids were so moved to help protect other children that they came up with the idea of making paintings and artwork to sell to raise money for nets. That got the adults thinking, “With so much knowledge about the disease at our fingertips, surely we can create an impactful World Malaria Day event that will educate and inspire folks to purchase lifesaving bed nets to stop some of the 900,000 deaths that occur each year from the effects of this horrible yet preventable mosquito-borne disease?” Or so we hoped. That was December, 2009. Now, four months later, we’re just a few days away from making it all happen. With kid-friendly basketball activities led by Ivano “Newby” Newbill (of NBA and Georgia Tech fame), an intimate music performance featuring local heroes Third Day and newcomer Scott England, and an interactive bed and net display, we’re hoping that collective donations raised at the event for Nothing But Nets and Malaria No More will yield thousands of bed nets for families who need them.
Fighting malaria is especially important to me, because, in a coincidence that could not have been more timely, my friend Joyce Tannian (fearless leader of the nonprofit Water is Life Kenya), is recovering from the disease even as I write this blog. But so many others around the world, particularly children under the age of 5 who are so vulnerable to malaria’s effects, aren’t so lucky.