Hello! My name is Will and I’m Global Poverty Ambassador in Mid-Ulster, Northern Ireland. This month Global Poverty Project has teamed up with Malaria No More UK to support the end to malaria deaths within a generation. Through the course of the month I decided to tap into my creative side to show there’s real community support to end malaria deaths. But the question was…. ‘How?’
Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time when you get a breakthrough but, thankfully for this blog narrative, I can tell you exactly ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’!
It’s not the most theatrical of settings; seated on my partially broken computer chair, adopting my almost-religious position, staring dutifully at the computer screen. I was scrolling through my emails, deleting adverts mostly, when Sam’s Campaigns Officer for GPP) monthly campaigns email came through for August. As a good ambassador does, I opened it, and one fact kicked out like an over-enthusiastic cabaret-artist, placing a carefully positioned heel to my heart, ‘655,000’. Six hundred and fifty-five thousand people died, in 2010, from malaria. Malaria, a preventable disease, making each one a pointless death to strangle the economy of largely poverty-struck countries. Governments know how much it costs to stop malaria. Governments know what has to be done – I got the desire then to show that communities, like mine, cared about what happened in at-risk countries.
Reeling from the kick-in-the-stomach I wondered around my room thinking ‘what can I do?’; my mosquito-net lying in the corner of my room having returned from travels within Nepal. Mosquito net’s, I began to think, are such visual examples of simple protective mechanisms – a wall between a mosquito with malaria and you. I knew, in those moments, that my mosquito net had to be used. No longer would it lie like a forgotten net-curtain beneath books. Through half an hour of experiments, I came up with my concept:
Getting people, in my community, to stick their names up on my mosquito net to ‘cover’ the 655,000 that lay behind the canopy.
Now came the hard part – logistics. Deciding where to go, and whom to get permission from, to travel with my mosquito net! After a number of emails with Steph (Campaigns Assistant at GPP) I managed to get permission to hold it in my local shopping centre, Meadowlane, on Friday 17th August. The shopping centre were brilliant, so understanding of the importance of this issue to the global community they allowed me valuable space within the centre for free (thank you!). Armed with leaflets, courtesy of the lovely people at Malaria No More UK, and my sister (Lucy whom I had dragged along as the fashionable assistant) we began the day.
I was overcome with the amount of interest in the installation; from little children to the senior citizen (both pictured below) everyone wanted to know more about malaria and show they cared. There were so many highlights for me, but one which struck me was the story of Margaret who came up to me in the shopping centre. Margaret’s brother-in-law had fallen victim to malaria in West Africa and, unfortunately, by the time he came to receive treatment, it was simply too late. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon, with 8 UK citizen’s dying of malaria in 2011. This is the heartbreaking story of just one person – think of how many millions have been directly and indirectly affected by malaria. She was so pleased that someone was taking an interest in this issue within the community she came back later to look at how we had done!
After the overwhelming success of the event, where over 100 people placed their name on the net, I’m hoping to take this to other shopping centres. Unfortunately I won’t be able to get around everywhere so I’d love it, if you have a mosquito net or know someone who does, to go take it to the streets – you’ll be amazed at the response you get!
Thanks goes to:
- Steph & Sam (and everyone at GPP!)
- Malaria No More UK
- Ursula and everyone at Meadowlane Shopping Centre
- My sister, without which these photos wouldn’t be as lovely
- My mosquito net – for braving Nepali mosquito’s and a shopping centre.