Recently my colleague Drake Carden and I flew to Atlanta to attend the World Leadership Conference hosted by Usher’s New Look Foundation. Seventh and eighth graders from all over Atlanta came to learn about New Look’s Powered by Service initiative, which teaches young people to identify their special talent, pinpoint an issue in their community, develop strategies to address the problem, and implement a solution to help others. We were thrilled to see our friend Zawadi Garrett, a youth leader from New York who shared how she was inspired to take action on malaria. Zawadi sold hundreds of umbrellas at her church to raise money for Nothing But Nets to send bed nets to protect families in Ethiopia from malaria.
Drake and I spoke with students about malaria, and discussed how their voices are powerful not only in their own communities but also with their Members of Congress, who want and need to hear about the issues that are important to them. We were surprised to learn that several of the students were familiar with malaria. One student, Antonio, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and had several family members who had contracted malaria. Another student had recently traveled to South Africa and had to take anti-malarial medicine and sleep under a bed net. Even with those experiences, it was hard for these young people to imagine dying from a single mosquito bite, particularly when there are simple, cost-effective prevention tools such as bed nets.
The students enthusiastically wrote letters to Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introducing themselves, sharing what they had learned about malaria, and asking him to be a Champion in the fight on Capitol Hill against this deadly disease. While they were nervous about their penmanship, they were excited to have the opportunity to exercise their voices!
Don’t worry — just because you weren’t with us in Atlanta, you can still join this fun advocacy effort. Click here to send a letter to your Member of Congress to express your support for the U.S. Government’s malaria prevention efforts. These include the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. Thanks in advance!