The Reality (and Virtual Reality) of Malaria

Hi all,

For years now, I have been involved with Nothing But Nets, an amazing organization devoted to fighting malaria. I have always felt called to support them and their mission in any way I can, so for my 15th birthday this year, I decided to request something … unique.

I invited some friends and family to come over and experience for themselves something that has been eye-opening for me. I had each of my guests put on a pair of virtual reality (VR) goggles which showed firsthand what life can be like for those who live in places overrun by malaria-infected mosquitoes. I showed them Nothing But Nets’ new virtual reality film, “Under the Net”. VR can be a moving experience, and can demonstrate just how much of a difference even a simple $10 protective bed net could make in someone’s world. (These nets can protect entire families from mosquitoes at night while they are sleeping!) Also, thanks to VR, my family and friends were able to learn more about how people deal with malaria, and how common (and scary) it can be. VR really can capture the effects malaria can have on the body in a powerful way. Having the chance to take a first-hand look into another human being’s entirely different world is an opportunity that is both eye-opening and humbling. In seeing this different world, my family, friends, and I have become more grateful of what we have, and also have been reminded of the importance of philanthropy and giving to others.

While reading or hearing about something is one thing, actually seeing people’s lives and how they live, and seeing the effects of the nets you are buying for them via VR is so much more significant. It has the power to spark something within: whether that spark inspires you to to donate more energy, more time, or more funds into helping those dealing with the effects of malaria, I believe it is important to act on our feelings of empathy, and reach out to those in need. VR as a whole gives us an empowering experience that opens our eyes to others’ experiences; it lets us visualize moments in others’ shoes. We can read articles all we want, but nothing is as effective as actually seeing these issues, feeling empathy, and then, most importantly, acting on those feelings. VR can give us a sense of empathy for all those affected by this disease, inspiring us to go and actually create change.

What you all (hopefully) may be thinking now that you’ve read this post is “how do I actually get involved?” There are so many ways to bring awareness and bring about change. Whether it’s by supporting and spreading the word about great organizations such as “Nothing But Nets”, by fundraising, or even by scheduling meetings with your local members of Congress to ask for funding for key U.S. Government programs such as The President’s Malaria Initiative and Global Fund, there are countless ways to help support the cause.

In fact, to learn more about malaria and fighting it, please go check out the “Nothing But Nets” official website here:

Of course, reading a website can’t be as interactive as a virtual reality experience-- but, it can be the start of something bigger. Check out the website, and then, if you have access to VR goggles, check out the VR malaria experience for yourself. And if you don’t, just come over anytime and borrow mine. Virtual reality might be just the thing we need to bring awareness to our actual reality.

Cooper Smith

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