Saturday, December 5, 2009

Casting a Net for Life

I have been looking for a way to make Christmas gift-giving more meaningful this year. . . by reaching out to someone I don't know. I've been inspired by the posts for which links have been left at What I Learned Today, the site of wonderful writer Billy Coffey. Billy joined forces a few days ago with a powerhouse known as Katdish — she runs a place called Hey Look, a Chicken — and came up with "The 10 Dollar Challenge" .  Yesterday, with that challenge in mind, I decided to cross an ocean and cast some nets.

* * * * * * * *

Malaria: I haven't thought about it since the mid-1990s. 

I had to take anti-malarial pills — Lariam — when I visited South Africa around 1995. I read in advance of my travel the information about possible effects, and worried a little but not much, as I decided that taking a chance on the pills' effects gave me better odds than I'd have if I contracted malaria.

Malaria isn't a disease we hear or talk much about in America, unless we work with or support organizations in developing countries. Beyond a few words in our grade-school history books about the scourges of the New World, our introduction to the disease tends to be at places such as Georgetown University Hospital's International Health Service Travel Clinic, in Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia, where I live, and then only if we are traveling abroad where malaria is a risk.

Found in every tropical and sub-tropical country, malaria is a very real risk outside the United States, especially in Africa south of the Sahara. As of the end of 2004, an estimated 3.2 billion people lived in areas at risk of malaria transmission. Worldwide, the disease, transmitted by the anopheles mosquito, claims more than 1 million lives a year. It accounts for 350 million to 500 million cases per year. It is a leading cause of mortality of children younger than age 5.

Malaria also is nearly entirely preventable. And one of the most effective means of preventing it is to "mosquito-proof" living and sleeping quarters with insecticide-treated nets (ITNs).

Yesterday, I bought five ITNs from Episcopal Relief and Development's Gifts for Life program.

Each net cost just $12.

Each net will help save a child's life or the life of a mother-to-be, and in each place where a net is cast, a roving health team will provide community-based training in effective use of ITNs and critical care for people suffering from malaria.

Twelve dollars for a life saved. Fifteen four-dollar cups of Starbucks foregone for five lives saved.

Yesterday, I took up a challenge and multiplied it. I bought some nets. I've cast them far away, and I'll never know the names of their recipients.

What I know already, however, is that five children or five pregnant women will be able to sleep another night, and then another and another, and wake up somewhere in the world to the wonder of a new morning without the marks of the insect that used to work on them at night.

Sources of Information: Websites for Centers for Disease Control and Georgetown University Hospital


Jennifer @ said...

Beautiful. We can do BIG things for others, with such small sacrifices. Thank you for the inspiration.

Glynn said...

And all for the price of 15 cups of coffee at Starbucks. That's marvelous.

katdish said...

Powerhouse? (Snort!)

What a fantastic idea! Giving up a few cups of coffee seems such a small sacrifice, and to know that money will go to buy nets that may literally save the life of a child? Awesome.

Anonymous said...

this really made me smile in my heart.

good information to help us all to be more aware as well.

praise God.

Billy Coffey said...

You're so right. Diseases like malaria are overlooked here because they're not our problem, further evidence of our knack to consider only those things that directly affect us. What a wonderful act you've done, Maureen. It truly is amazing how so few dollars can so vastly improve someone's life.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Thanks, Maureen, for the reminder that a small gesture by a lot of people can add up to transformation. I'm going to light my candle also.

Doug Spurling said...

Seems I've heard about casting a net into the deep and the return was an overflow. Your creative flare has crossed the globe and only God knows what it will ignite. You've encouraged me to think outside the box. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm cruising around to see how the $10 Challenge is spreading. This is a tangible, beautiful idea to make a difference in the world.

Ann Kroeker via HCB said...

Just wanted you to know that you're highlighted along with other $10 Challenge participants over at High Calling Blogs today. Thanks for telling your story and thinking outside, well, outside the borders of our country. I love the idea of the nets.