“Donating $10 to buy a mosquito net to save an African child from malaria has become a hip way to show you care, especially for teenagers. The movement is like a modern version of the March of Dimes, created in 1938 to defeat polio, or like collecting pennies for Unicef on Halloween.
Unusual allies, like the Methodist and Lutheran Churches, the National Basketball Association and the United Nations Foundation, are stoking the passion for nets that prevent malaria. The annual “American Idol Gives Back” fund-raising television special has donated about $6 million a year for two years. The music channel VH1 made a fund-raising video featuring a pesky man in a mosquito suit.
It is an appeal that clearly resonates with young people.”
“The first time I donated money, after my bar mitzvah, it was for someone who needed a heart transplant,” said Daniel Fogel, 18, a founder of his Waltham, Mass., high school’s juggling club, which raised $2,353 for nets last year. “But I had the feeling: Am I really helping? But if you can say $10 saves a life, that makes students feel they can help a lot. And every student has $10.”
“Crucial to the drive against malaria, which kills an estimated one million people a year, mostly in Africa, has been the development of an inexpensive, long-lasting insecticidal net. Unlike old nets, which either had no insecticide or had to be dipped twice a year, the new ones keep killing or repelling mosquitoes for three to five years. When more than 60 percent of the inhabitants of a village use them over their beds while they are sleeping, malaria rates usually drop sharply. ”
“Yoni D. P. Rechtman, a seventh grader on the undefeated middle-school team at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, organized a 3-on-3 basketball tournament as part of his “mitzvah project,” the tradition of raising money for a good cause before one’s bar mitzvah. Unfortunately, he said, it rained that day; but the nine players who showed up anyway had family pledges totaling $1,900.
At Howard University in Washington, Ololade Ajayi helped organize the African Student Association fashion show to raise $2,300. She had a personal interest, she said, because she caught malaria several times growing up in Nigeria and lost a friend to it.
“We had to take our own nets to boarding school,” she said. “There were stagnant water pools on the school grounds. If your net got holes in it, you’d be bitten.”
But the champion for her age and weight class is undoubtedly Katherine Commale of Hopewell, Pa., who has just turned 7 and has raised $43,000.
Her mother, Lynda Commale, said it started in April 2006 when she was watching television while the family slept and learned from a PBS documentary that a child died of malaria every 30 seconds.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Ms. Commale said. “The next morning, the kids said, ‘Mom, what’s wrong with you?’ I told them — and Katherine was just 5, and she started counting on her fingers. She got to 30, and she looked horrified. And she said ‘Mommy, we have to do something.’ ”
With her 3-year-old brother, Katherine built a diorama from a pizza box and some Barbie dolls to represent an African family in a hut. Then, with a piece of tulle and a toy bug, she developed a short skit showing how nets protect sleeping children.
“She tucks it in, she says, ‘You’re safe now,’ ” Ms. Commale said. “Kids get this in like 90 seconds.”
Soon, she and Katherine made a presentation at their church and raised $2,000, and they have continued visiting churches. Katherine and her friends also hand-decorate gift cards (which can be ordered at firstname.lastname@example.org.) that say, “A mosquito net has been purchased in your name.” They have raised about $8,000 each Christmas, Ms. Commale said.