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Antoinette Zosherafatain ’10, pictured in the front row, second from the right, and Katie Boyce-Jacino ’10, pictured in the back row, second from the right, proposed a "Malaria Awareness Week" campaign for the United Nations Foundation. As national finalists, they had the opportunity to attend a retreat at the United Nations Foundation offices July 16 and 17.
Posted 09.17.07

Students to Host Fundraising Malaria Awareness Week on Campus

Every 30 seconds, a child living in sub-Sahara Africa dies from malaria, a virus caused by mosquitoes. Two Wesleyan sophomores want to bring awareness of the preventable disease to campus, and save lives through various activities and fundraising.

Antoinette Zosherafatain ’10 and Katie Boyce-Jacino ’10, co-presidents of Wesleyan’s Americans for Informed Democracy chapter, are planning to host Malaria Awareness Week Oct. 6-12. This week will consist of various events to educate the Wesleyan community about malaria, and raise funds to buy insecticidal bed nets that safeguard African families from malaria.

“Malaria is a global epidemic, and we personally know students at Wesleyan who have contracted the disease,” Zosherafatain says. “We really want to take the time to educate the campus and get everyone engaged in the global problem of malaria through a week-long program.”

Malaria Awareness Week will begin with an educational lecture on the causes of malaria, and how the disease can be prevented. Mid-week, a documentary about malaria will be shown, and Wesleyan students will speak about their own experiences having the disease.  Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, and Bill Johnston, professor of East Asian Studies, professor and chair of history, will lead a discussion panel. Other activities include a week-long bake sale and a dance party, with donation proceeds going towards the cause.

Zosherafatain and Boyce-Jacino initially came up with the idea of Malaria Awareness Week for the United Nation Foundation’s Buzz Cuts campaign, a multi-media advocacy contest to promote student activism and awareness of malaria.

“The Buzz Cuts campaign for Malaria really stuck out as something that would make a large impact in the world and is something that everyone in the Wesleyan community can get involved in,” Boyce-Jacino says. "Even though it's the second largest killer in Sub-Saharan
Africa, second only to AIDS, it's often ignored. In developed countries, malaria has been all but wiped out, so it's really difficult for people here to understand just how devastating it is."

The Wesleyan students submitted a proposal, and were selected as two of the 13 nation-wide finalists on Sept. 4. Buzz Cuts received a total of 40 proposals.

“Katie and Antoinette’s campaign stood out as an innovative and fun approach to advocacy on the serious issue of malaria,” says Victoria Baxter, executive director of the United Nations Foundation’s The People Speak community. “The finalists were really able to get that message across while also getting other students involved in helping prevent this disease.”

Throughout the week, the students will place donation bins around campus, collecting funds to purchase bed nets, which are treated with pyrethroid insecticides to repel mosquitoes. A bed net completely covers a sleeping person and has the ability to reduce malaria transmission as much as 90 percent, according to the United Nations Foundation. They cost $10 each.

“The bed nets that we are fundraising for will save at least one life, and if $10 can save a life, then this is surely a way Wesleyan students can help change the world,” says Zosherafatain.

During Malaria Awareness Week, they will film, photograph and document the campaign and submit their final video to Buzz Cuts. In December 2007, the public will vote on its favorite video. The winning campaign will receive a $500 prize and national distribution of its campaign tool kits and materials.

Zosherafatain, a government major studying international politics and international relations, and Boyce-Jacino, a potential history and astronomy double major, learned about the Buzz Cuts competition last summer while researching non-profit campaigns on the Americans for Informed Democracy monthly newsletter.

"Wesleyan has anti-Iraq War groups, and Darfur groups, and AIDS groups, but what about a group that takes on the quieter issues? That's where we come in, and that's why our program is as extensive as it is," Boyce-Jacino says. "People don't know about this, and they should, because it's something that's so easily solved. Just a $10 bednet! Can you imagine?"

Zosherafatain and Boyce-Jacino were invited to a finalists’ retreat at the United Nations Foundation offices July 16 and 17. The finalists met with Senators Ben Nelson from Nebraska and Ken Salazar from Colorado.

Donations can be made online to their cause at https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/TeamPage.aspx?EventID=8291&LangPref=en-CA&TeamID=42183.
 

By Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor