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November 5, 2010

(I am sobbing. Sleeves are wet, nose is stopped up, eyes are swollen. I have no worries about my son; he is safely sleeping in his crib.)

A little over four years ago I was involved with a project at work. The United Methodist Church had just become partners with the United Nations Foundation and NBA C.A.R.E.S on something called Nothing But Nets. My dealings were really few until an opportunity came to promote Nothing But Nets at the Young People’s Convocation in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was in my mid-20’s and having done some work with NBN I was asked to attend. I learned about mosquitoes and how they spread malaria throughout Africa. I even knew the scientific name for the parasite (Plasmodium).

While tending the booth, the Africa University Choir was in the area getting ready to perform. A young woman hovered around the booth looking at the pictures and reading the materials. I asked her if she wanted to sign the banner. With a silver sharpie she wrote her name. She handed back the pen and then asked me a question.

“Have you had malaria?”

“No,” I replied with a cheerful face.

“I have. I thought I was going to die. It was a few years ago. I don’t know how the babies go through it. Your head hurts and there is so much noise and screaming.”

“Oh,” I lamely replied as she lined up with the choir and walked onstage.

(Imagine Malaria)

I had just met a person who suffered through malaria. I had never met a person before with malaria and I’ve not met a person since. Probably because malaria was eradicated from the United States in the 1950’s.

So, why are people still dying from a mosquito bite?

 I just finished watching a documentary called “When the Night Comes”. I hope it can be included in a project I’m involved with. I sobbed throughout the movie. In the movie, a young man named Bobby Bailey who has spent a lot of time in Uganda decides to take two young people who have never really traveled or heard of malaria to Uganda. Bobby’s group returns to a village he had stayed in during an earlier visit. There he finds his friend Judith. Judith’s life has changed since he left. Her baby girl Britney died from malaria. You travel with Bobby to clinics to learn more about the disease. You see children suffering with the disease and mostly mothers sitting by their bedsides. There are triumphs, yes! There are deaths. I sob, thankful my baby is safe and heartbroken that a life is taken and those left behind suffer.

The statistics have changed from what I learned four years ago. At that time, a child under the age of five died every 30 seconds. Now, a child dies every 45 seconds from malaria. From a stupid mosquito bite.

How many of you have been bit by a mosquito?

Did you worry you might die?

Did you worry your child might die?

During the movie, I asked God the traditional question. Why? Why is there malaria? Why are people dying? Why is it ruining a whole continent? I didn’t hear an answer to Why. But I heard something else.         You can help.

The voice is right. I CAN help. I’m within the answer. Guess what. You are too!

The United Methodist Church, though still a part of Nothing But Nets, saw an opportunity to take that initiative further. It’s called Imagine No Malaria. Nets are still an important preventive piece, but we can also improve education about the disease, establish community-based malaria control programs, conduct communications outreach and revitalize hospitals to better the treatment provided to those suffering with malaria. This is not a “we do this for them” program. Imagine No Malaria uses the community leaders for every piece.

Though I am working on something with Imagine No Malaria to coincide with World Maria Day (ahem, April 25th), I thought I don’t need to wait to start talking about what I’ve just experienced. Money is needed now and will still be needed then. With Christmas approaching, please consider giving $10 to Imagine No Malaria. If you want to give more please do! You can even join the Impact 100 Club. What a great gift during the holiday season, the gift of life. Do it in honor of the people you love. Do it in honor of the mother sitting next to her dying child. Give knowing those lives make a difference in our world. None of the money goes to administration. It all goes to nets, education, programs and communication.

Imagine No Malaria;

Text: malaria To: 27722 to give $10


Twitter @ttennheat

If you are curious about the project I am working on, please contact me! I have great excitement about it, but it needs your excitement too.

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