Like many parents, Lynda wanted to instill in her kids a desire
to perform good deeds in the community
and beyond. Moved by the malaria crisis in Africa, Lynda
discussed it with her family, and her daughter, then in
kindergarten, was inspired to take action. Together,
the mother-and-daughter team educated scores of kids about
malaria and raised thousands of dollars to buy bed nets to help
stop the spread of the disease.
"Mom, that's not right! We need to send some nets to
Africa right away!"
This was the response of my 5-year-old daughter after I told her
that bed nets prevent malaria and save lives in Africa.
I'd been watching a TV program on malaria, and I
couldn't get it out of my mind. Most devastating to me was that
3,000 children per day are dying from the disease, which is
preventable and curable. While malaria has been eliminated in parts
of Asia, Europe, and America, in Africa, where there is widespread
poverty and underdeveloped health care, the disease continues to
spread. One thing that can prevent the disease from spreading is
giving families bed nets that have been treated with insecticide to
It haunted me and I knew I had to respond. The next morning, at
breakfast, I shared what I'd learned with my husband and my
kids, Katherine, then 5, and Joseph, 2. I explained that a little
mosquito bite is a terrible problem in Africa and that sleeping
under a special net helps stop the mosquito. Katherine quickly
understood and wanted to help. She suggested we do a lemonade
stand, which we'd done to help raise money for Hurricane
Katrina victims. But I told her that we might need something a
We talk about global issues at home and in church, so the topic
of suffering and death was not new to her and I was not afraid to
talk to her about it.
I truly believe that Katherine was so committed to this mission
because she saw how important it was to me. She understood how sad
it made me when I thought of the children in Africa who were dying
from this preventable disease.
A Place to Start
After months of research online and at my local library, I was
led to the United Nations Foundation, an organization that
distributes bed nets in Africa. A wonderful working relationship
began, and with their support Katherine and I decided to start
fundraising at our local church. We introduced One Bed Net At A
Time during services throughout the 2006 Labor Day weekend. We were
both a little nervous doing the presentation. But together we
explained how in Africa, mosquitoes can kill by transmitting
malaria. We explained that every 30 seconds a child dies from this
illness. I emphasized malaria's intimate connection with
poverty. Katherine stated that malaria can be prevented by sleeping
under a bed net, which costs $10. She inspired the
Katherine and I went on to talk to the children at Sunday school.
We displayed actual bed nets, performed a skit, and used a diorama,
which Katherine and had made with the help of her little brother,
to demonstrate to the kids how the nets prevent malaria. We then
had the kids make bookmarks covered in netting to take home so they
could share the message with others. I knew if we could teach the
children four words - Africa, mosquitoes, malaria, and bed nets -
then they would understand and want to help â€¦and they most
That fall, Katherine and I made our One Bed Net At A Time
presentation to many others. We spoke in front of groups at our
local library, gym, pre-school, elementary school, neighboring
churches, three local newspapers, a Girl Scout Troop, and a home
schooling co-operative. As the holiday season approached, kids from
both the church and community decorated homemade gift certificates,
allowing gift-givers to purchase bed nets in someone's honor.
These were a
hit and over 600 were sold! Katherine, Joseph, and her friends had
fun decorating the gift certificates. By October 2007, we raised
over $25,000 to buy bed nets, which have saved thousands of lives
I could not have asked for a better partner than my daughter. As
parents, we need to lead by example. We can only hope our children
will follow in our footsteps, and if they do, the power of one
bring about amazing change.
Unbeknownst to us, at the same time, others were thinking along
the same lines.
columnist Rick Reilly was asking his readers to buy bed nets to
help stop the spread of malaria, and the incredible response had
prompted the formation of Nothing But Nets, a global fundraising
campaign to fund nets that prevent malaria in Africa. The UN
foundation helped link our two groups and they invited us to help
kick off the official campaign.
On January 4, 2007, Katherine's sixth birthday, our family
traveled to New York City to kick off the campaign. Katherine and I
were honored for our fundraising efforts. Katherine, surrounded by
TV cameras and a studio audience, used her diorama of an African
hut and family to explain how a net saves a person's life. Many
in the crowd were wiping tears from their eyes. I am humbled by
Katherine's understanding of and commitment to this mission and
have learned from her to
underestimate a child's abilities.
Mary Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: October 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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