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By: Ilham Hassan

Get the conversation started with youth

June 16, 2017
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Last week, I participated in a Nothing But Nets event that took place on UCLA’s campus.  The event was akin to a youth camp – it was fun and games, but there was also a deeper purpose behind it and the kids didn’t spend the night.

The students, ranging from sixth to eighth graders, are part of global classrooms (like a junior Model United Nations).  They were already familiar with malaria and other global issues, but this magnificent event drove the message home.  The message was to talk about malaria; spreading the word about this serial killer will pave the way for its elimination.  

A few other college volunteers and I led three different interactive activities for the students, and the kids rotated between the stations. I was working the skit table.  When the students came to my station, they were broken up into teams and each team performed an entertaining skit in front of the other students.  Each skit was unique, but the common thread was the theme: malaria. 

As the kids were having fun and learning more about the devastating disease, a giant mosquito, Mozzie, buzzed around the room.  (Mozzie’s a rather cute and harmless mosquito; I suppose he was trying to build a pro-mosquito propaganda campaign.)  Additionally, two UN workers, Alfred Orono and Brian Kelly, talked about malaria and their experiences at the UN.  To top it off, professional soccer players joined the kids in the sports station.  Chris Klein and Julian Valentin from the L.A. Galaxy represented MLS at this event and showcased the importance of nets – in sports and in malaria prevention.

All in all, it was a wonderful event! The children were really passionate about malaria and Nothing But Nets.  It’s important to get youth involved in serious issues such as malaria, which claims one small child’s life every 30 seconds…30 seconds!  These kids now have the knowledge, passion, drive and power to knock malaria out.  Remember, we can all make a difference.  Malaria kills millions of people each year, but it’s completely preventable.  Insecticide-treated bed nets appear to be the cheapest and most effective way to prevent malarial transmission. 

My favorite part of the whole event was that we talked about malaria.  It isn’t everyday that we hear malaria on the news or meet a malaria patient.  We’ve got to start having conversations about this disease to uncover the death and destruction it causes in the shadows.  It’s a step forward in the fight against malaria.  Let’s get the conversation going…   

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