Last month, the Nothing But Nets team joined the 2014 Junior Chamber International (JCI) Global Partnership Summit in New York. The gathering united members of JCI to explore the world’s greatest challenges alongside key partners and supporters.
Nothing But Nets Champion, Naomi Kodama, delivered a moving speech to JCI members at the closing reception, calling on every member to help send a net and save a life. With her permission, below is an excerpt of her speech, edited for length and clarity.
Good afternoon! My name is Naomi S. Kodama and I am 16 years old.
My work helping others began on my 7th birthday, December 26th, 2004, which was also coincidentally the day of the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. I couldn’t celebrate my birthday while the TV in front of me was showing children losing everything that they owned. So, for my birthday party, I asked my friends to bring in donations instead of presents, and we were able to raise over $500!
I liked the feeling of helping others, so my father told me about the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, and how Nothing But Nets was working to save lives from malaria. And I have been donating my birthday to Nothing But Nets ever since. Because no gift will make me smarter, make me a better person, or change my life for the better.
Every 60 seconds a child dies from malaria. This means that since midnight last night, 900 people have died of this preventable and treatable disease.
But, we should not talk about numbers. We should be talking about individual lives and dreams that are not realized because of this disease. It is about a son or a daughter, a future teacher, an engineer, a lawyer, a musician, or who knows, a future Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Stephen Biko.
I am only one person and alone I cannot do much, but I am sure that if more people get involved, together we can eradicate malaria, and so many other problems that are affecting this world within a generation.
There are around 500 people in this event, and over 200,000 JCI members around the word. Thanks to all of you, JCI has been able to raise almost $3 million for Nothing But Nets. Which is wonderful, and I do not want to sound rude or harsh, however I do not believe that is enough. I do not believe that nearly $3 million is the best that Junior Chamber International can do.
If you do the calculations, $3 million divided by 200,000 is $15. Fifteen dollars. In other words it is like each JCI member has donated 1.5 nets. And I am aware that there are members who have contributed so much more! To those of you that have been doing so, please keep doing so, and don’t give up! However, this also means that there are JCI members who could “sacrifice” a hamburger, or a movie ticket, or a tub of ice cream – who could use $10 for a better cause that can save a life.
It is not a complicated principle to understand. If a seven-year-old could help save 50 lives on her birthday in exchange for her presents, then I cannot imagine the wonderful things you all will be able to accomplish if everyone in this event not just embraced, but truly committed themselves, to help others.
Thank you, everyone, for listening.
Thank you Nothing But Nets.
Thank you, JCI, for this opportunity and for giving me the guidance on how I should live my life.