World Malaria Day : 2010

As this blog is turning more and more into a photography blog, I’ve been getting more and more of a crowd around here. Fun times indeed!

But, I’m realizing that for those of you who don’t know me at all or just started getting to know me more recently, you might not realize that I’ve got a crazy infatuation with Africa… specifically Malawi. Hence the main image on top not being one of a bride, but of a young Malawian boy.

After I graduated from Texas A&M back in 2007, I decided to pack my bags and do something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I moved to Malawi, Africa for 9 months.

This experience changed my life. Forever.

Almost two years have gone by, and I honestly think about Malawi at some point every day. Little Chichewa phrases pop in and out of my mind and my heart drifts back to a place that was very different than where I am now.

I give you that bit of introduction because I don’t want you to ride off this post as just another one of those “jump on a band-wagon to help people” posts that seem to be around every corner of the internet. I’m all for helping people… indeed!

But, there are really only a few things that are pretty raw in my heart if I’m honest.

This is one of them.

When you’re in Africa, malaria is one of those things that you think about very often! I would compare it to brushing your teeth here in America. The threat of malaria comes into your mind every time you get in and out of bed (lifting up the mosquito net to quickly get in without letting anything else in with you), or when part of your morning routine is downing a pill as a proactive measure.

Now, the reality is, it’s pretty simple to keep yourself safe from getting this terrible sickness. Heck, you really don’t even have to take the pill at all if you just avoid the mosquito. But, the sad reality is that every day… EVERY DAY… more than 2,000 children DIE from malaria.

>2,000

Humans.

Die.

That’s a lot!

Statistics tend to just get all jumbled up in my mind usually, and the way I deal with that messiness is that I just put it in the compartment of my brain that says “crap that’s huge and I’m not huge… I’ll deal with that later”.

The reason why this is different for me is because of the faces I’ve seen. I haven’t just witnessed numbers walking around websites trying to vie for my attention. I have seen a little girl.

Her name is Gladys.

She lived in the house next door to me for several months, and was one of the most lifeless beings that I have ever seen.

For the longest time we couldn’t figure out if she was just malnourished or what.

But, finally, we figured out that this tiny child had severe malaria.

She wouldn’t have lived much longer had we not taken her to the hospital and started her on some heavy meds.

Gladys was one child out of millions. When I looked into her eyes or threw her up in the air to make her laugh, her life had tremendous value to me.

So, when I read a number like 2,000 children a day. I’m able to take it out of its compartment and put a face with that. I can place sounds and touch with that number.

So, allow me to be an advocate for the 2,000 Gladys’ that will die today from a disease that could be prevented by the simplest means.

Check out this website to see what you can do to help and to learn more about Malaria:

Roll Back Malaria World Malaria Day 2009
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April 25th  is World Malaria Day. 

Malaria is a reality that far too many people live with on a daily basis around the world. 

While living in Malawi, I was reminded each morning when I filled a glass full of water and swallowed a giant doxy pill of the reality of Malaria. 

The problem is… I was definitely in the minority of people swallowing pills on a given day. Most people just took their chances against the dreaded “malungo” (chiChewa for Malaria). 

Luckily, by the grace of God, I managed to avoid Malaria while I was in Malawi. I say “by the grace of God” because it was really nothing that I did! I was really more reckless than I should have been. I never once applied mosquito repellant while I was there, and there were a few occasions where the thought of having to tuck that stupid net in around me just made me want to give up… and I did. 

However, not everyone is so lucky. 

Each year, Malaria kills approximately 1 million people.

Out of that 1 million, an estimated 80% are children.

In Africa, every day, about 2,000 children breathe their last breath because of this preventable disease.

Preventable.

Malaria IS preventable.

Something as simple as sleeping under a bed-net can save a person’s life. 

There are many initiatives raising support and providing these resources to people that simply can’t justify spending money on a bed-net when they haven’t put food in their child’s body for over a day.

If you would like to give a bed-net, do it here.

Also, for those of you living in the Brazos Valley… a good friend of mine is the youth minister at A&M United Methodist Church. On May 1st, they will be hosting a benefit concert for “Nothing But Nets” featuring Jimmy Needham. Check it out here.

WHY DO I CARE??

I’ll recap a story for you that I wrote about when I was in Malawi:

Returning from a trip down south to her home village, my neighbor, Agnes, had an extra piece of luggage. This piece of luggage had a name and was wearing a nice peach colored dress. 

Her name was Gladys, and she was probably 4 years old. 

Gladys was placed under the big tree in our back yard each day to sit with the other kids. But there was definitely something different about her compared to the other kids. While they would be running in circles, laughing and screaming, she would be dozing in and out with her eyes kinda rolling toward the top of her head. 

If someone were to ask me to define what “lifeless” looks like, I would simply say “Gladys”. 

I remember the first time I picked her up and held her in my arms. I had never felt something so limp before. 

For weeks, she stayed next door, where she was getting much better nutrition compared to the modest 1 meal a day she may of got from her incredibly poor family. 

However, it wasn’t until one of the missionaries convinced Agnes to let us bring her to the hospital to just get her checked out that we discovered that malnutrition was minor compared to a much more serious problem. 

Gladys had been suffering from a level-4 case of Malaria for quite some time. 

For someone like me, level-4 would have put me on the brink of death.

It was only the grace of God that had protected her and allowed such a tiny child to survive such harsh treatment to her body. 

They discovered that as a result of the Malaria, Gladys had become severely anemic and to top it off, her body was infested with worms. 

The doctor prescribed some intense anti-malarial drugs and we just hoped for the best. 

It was amazing to see the progress that Gladys made once she received the medication. 

Out of simple ignorance and a lack of resources, this precious girl nearly lost her life. 

When I think of Malaria, my arms feel the weight of a lifeless 4-year old girl laying on my shoulder. 

That weight extends from my arms and is a weight that plunders my soul.