Nothing But Nets School Charity
From the Leadership Institute Symposium on Social Change
Author: Anna Johnson
Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that kills nearly one million people a year. It is caused by the female mosquito that bites at night. 85% of malaria victims are children under the age of 5. The fastest way to prevent malaria is the use of long lasting insecticide treated bed nets, because they provide a protective barrier against mosquitoes. The United Nations has announced, through the Millennium Development Goal 6, the objective of reducing malaria deaths by 2015, primarily through the widespread use of bed nets. It has also sponsored the “Nothing But Nets” campaign to raise money for the distribution of nets and education on how to properly use them.
My action plan addressed the problem of Malaria through educating people in my community about the tragedy of Malaria deaths, and encouraging them to be part of the solution by donating chf10 to purchase a bed net through “Nothing but Nets.” My presentation was centered on the campaign slogan, “Send a net. Save a Life.” In addition, my volleyball team adopted the cause, with each member agreeing to make a donation of 1 chf for each serve missed during the season and an additional donation of 1chf for every point we won by in a game. A number of parents also got involved by offering to match donations.
Specifically, I was able to introduce the program in September 2010. I made a presentation to the Charity Coordinator at my school in an attempt to make “Nothing But Nets” an official school charity. I was a new student, having moved to Switzerland from Japan, and did not have a support base needed to make this happen. Our school is quite small and they are very concerned with having too many official charities. They call it “charity fatigue.” Currently, there are 5 official programs that have been supported by the community for a number of years, including two Africa-based charities.
At the same time, I presented my plan to my new volleyball team, and the girls were quite enthusiastic. I was able to gain their support very quickly. I also approached the coaches of other schools in an attempt to get the Swiss Group of International Schools league involved, and they were interested, but felt it was too late for this year. They agreed to consider “Nothing but Nets” for the league national tournament next year. I will approach them again before this school year is finished so there is plenty of time to get organized. I also want to extend the program to the Middle School and the Girls and Boys basketball teams. There is also a community basketball club team that my sister plays on, with a professional team, and I plan to try to get them involved with “Nothing but Nets.” Either tied to points, or through an awareness day. Unfortunately, World Malaria Day takes place during school vacations this year, but next year there will be an opportunity for a tie-in.
Approximately 4 people are working with me on the project, including my volleyball coach. We also had 34 team members contributing through donations. In total, we have raised, chf 902 for “Nothing but Nets,” which will buy 90 nets. My basketball coach at my old school in Japan also started a similar program, based on my suggestion.
It was a challenge for me to try to start a program like this as a new student in a new school. I expected the people in power to immediately agree to support “Nothing but Nets” because it is such an excellent cause. The Charity Coordinator told me that my presentation was the best he has seen, but it wasn’t enough to gain the support of the school.
I learned that, sometimes things happen slowly, but it is still possible to make progress. I also learned that you need to get support from key people in order to be successful. For example, by Art teacher is quite popular at our school, and I just found out that she caught malaria a few years ago and suffered considerably. I think I could possibly use her as an advocate in trying to garner more support for “Nothing but Nets” in the future. Personally, I don’t believe in “Charity Fatigue.” I have participated in at least 10 charity events this year and am a member of “Freaks of Nature,” our eco club. I consider such activities to be an important part of my life.
Almost all of the official charities at my school were initiated by faculty members. As a new student, I believe I have gained respect from the community for introducing “Nothing but Nets.” It started a discussion on how students should take more ownership of the causes we support and it has also given other student ideas on programs they want to introduce. My younger sister has also become involved. She suggested we introduce “Nothing but Nets” to her basketball league.
Finally, I have gained experience that I am using towards other community causes. I really enjoy organizing people to help others. For example, two days after the devastating earthquake in Japan, I felt I had to do something to help. I was born in Japan and just moved from there last fall. I approached the charity coordinator at our school and requested that we have a one-time bake sale and origami lesson to support the victims of the earthquake. Although our school doesn’t generally allow bake sales, he agreed. In one day, we raised over chf 6,000 for the Red Cross of Japan.
I want to continue to make a difference, even in a small way, to help eradicate malaria by 2015. It really bothers me that thousands of children die every day needlessly. The full eradication of Malaria, like that of polio, is an attainable goal, but we have to help people who can’t help themselves. I also feel it is important to educate people in my community on the importance of activism in many areas. Although malaria competes with other problems, there should be no prioritization of causes. People can make a difference across a range of issues.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the Symposium because I live so far away and I had to take my PSAT test that weekend. If given another opportunity, I would like to come back to Brown for a Symposium in the future.
On a final note, I wanted you to know that my experience last summer at the Leadership Institute Conflict Resolution course had a major impact on me, both in terms of my exposure to a diverse group of interesting people and my commitment to social action. I am planning to continue my work with “Nothing But Nets,” and to also start volunteering with a local refugee center. I am looking forward to being involved in a cause within my community, and plan to spend the summer tutoring children at the center.