April 25th is World Malaria Day. Normally, we commemorate these days, in recognition of those suffering worldwide from diseases like malaria. This year, however, I'm part of a group celebrating the day instead and calling on others to do the same.
I'm in New York with my organization PSI (Population Services International), and our partners at Nothing But Nets and Roll Back Malaria to celebrate thousands of "Champions in the Fight Against Malaria" -- individual champions who are helping to reduce the number of people dying every day from the disease.
The list of champions includes people like basketball legend Dikembe Mutombo and the executive director of Roll Back Malaria, Dr. Awa Marie Coll-Seck. But it also includes people like Nathaniel Stafford, a 12-year-old boy who walked more than 100 miles to raise enough money to provide a thousand families with an insecticide-treated mosquito net. Malaria rates are dropping across Africa because of the these champions who have joined the movement to end malaria. But we need continued support and funding to maintain that momentum.
Hearing Nathaniel's story got me thinking... what is it that motivates people to take action around health issues that affect the global community, but that don't necessarily affect us directly -- issues like malaria, malnutrition or HIV? And if we did a better job of sharing our own personal stories, could we help inspire more people to act? Hey, Malcolm Gladwell -- if you're reading this -- really curious to hear your thoughts on what motivates people to act.
My personal journey started about three years ago, when I was first introduced to PSI. My first trip with them was to Southern Sudan in 2009, where I helped launch a large-scale malaria prevention campaign and net distribution that was being funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. PSI is the largest distributor of mosquito nets worldwide and will soon be delivering its 125 millionth net during a distribution campaign planned for the Democratic Republic of Congo later this year.
That trip was the first time that I was able to fully understand the devastating impact of malaria on children, mothers and whole communities. It was also the moment that solidified my commitment to use whatever voice or platform I might have to spread the word.
ABC News just launched Be the Change: Save a Life, a new global health initiative that's all about helping people better understand the impact of malaria and other diseases that disproportionately impact the world's poorest people. But as we all know, awareness is one thing, taking action another. So in addition to stories about people who driving solutions to the biggest global health challenges of our day, they've created a constant stream of new action opportunities and ways to get involved in the issues you care about, all available on their website at www.saveone.net. So whether you're looking to give, volunteer, or create your own solution, it's literally never been easier to save a life.
The team at Be the Change: Save a Life are just as interested in hearing your stories of inspiration as I am. In fact, they've agreed to help us in a challenge for all of you: Send in a short 300-500 word story about what's inspired you to take action to improve the world around you. I'll do my best to highlight those stories on my blog and elsewhere, and ABC will likewise feature select essays on www.saveone.net. Send the story to ABCSaveaLife@gmail.com by midnight on Sunday May 1st, 2011
I am struck every day by the groundswell of people young and old, from every conceivable background, who have refused to sit idly by and wait for someone else to solve the challenges facing the planet and the people living on it.
You don't have to settle for simply being a part of the movement; by sharing your story and inspiring others to follow your lead, you can help make the movement.