Youth help lead the way in Nothing But Nets campaign

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Kadizatu Karagbo (left) and Frances Paris, originally from Sierra Leone and now
living in Silver Spring, Md., enjoy the festivities at the June 16
Nothing But Nets event in Washington. UMNS photos by John Coleman.

By John Coleman*
June 18, 2009 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)

For Kadizatu Karagbo and Frances Paris, the scourge of mosquito-borne malaria, which claims nearly 3,000 lives a day across Africa, is a concern close to home and close to their hearts.

Bishops John R. Schol (left) and Thomas Bickerton stand with Elisabeth Clymer and Zach Ayers, two teens honored for their dedication to the anti-malaria initiative.

The youth are members of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, Md. But their original home is Freetown, Sierra Leone. The United Methodist Church is committed to buying bed nets, costing only $10 each, through its Nothing But Nets campaign to alleviate the high death rate and suffering inflicted by malaria in Sierra Leone and other African countries.

Karagbo and Paris are doing their part by raising funds for the campaign, through which the denomination hopes to blanket nations in need with insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

They and other youth at Good Shepherd raised $1,350 on May 25 from $10 tickets and donations to a church spaghetti dinner, with entertainment that featured karaoke singing.

"We've taken extra bed nets to Sierra Leone whenever we go back to visit with our families," Karagbo said. "But we're really happy to be helping this campaign through our church. It will save a lot of lives."

The two teens were part of a June 16 celebration by churches in the denomination's Baltimore-Washington Conference that are leading the way in raising funds for the campaign.

United Methodists raise $26 million

Nothing But Nets is a collaboration of The United Methodist Church, the United Nations Foundation, the National Basketball Association's foundation, Sports Illustrated magazine and other partners. So far, United Methodists have raised $26 million, according to the U.N. Foundation.

More than 130 youth and adults from 15 area churches joined campaign leaders at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., known as the national church of United Methodism, for the event.

They celebrated the conference's success in raising $100,000 to buy 10,000 nets, many of which will be delivered by a team of conference leaders during their visit to Zimbabwe in late July. The Baltimore-Washington and Zimbabwe Area conferences have been official partners in mission for more than a decade.

Speakers at the Nothing But Nets Faith Dinner included U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who is a former prime minister of Portugal, and United Methodist Bishops John R. Schol of the Washington Area and Thomas Bickerton of the Pittsburgh Area.

"The support of faith-based organizations is vitally important to our refugee work," said Guterres, thanking United Methodists for their anti-malaria efforts. Saturday, June 20, has been declared World Refugee Day by the United Nations.

Schol asked Guterres to let the refugees he encounters know that The United Methodist Church is working hard to help them in many ways and especially in preventing the spread of malaria.

"Our church has been in Africa for over 160 years, building churches, clinics and schools," he said, "and now we are saving lives by distributing nets."

Staggering death toll

Bickerton, chairperson of the denomination's Nothing But Nets campaign, also thanked the Baltimore-Washington Conference for "all the ways you are raising money and awareness for our fight against this killer disease.

Youth from Mt. Zion United Methodist Church attend a Nothing But
Nets event in Washington.

"The number of deaths is staggering -- 2,282 children died today and 10 died in the last five minutes," he lamented. "We shared a wonderful dinner here, but they are dying while we eat."

Bickerton recalled learning the meaning of true thankfulness in 1986 during a visit to Liberia when he met a man who "had nothing materially but everything spiritually" and who expressed gratitude for the missionary who had taught him about Jesus Christ decades earlier.

"Thank you to God for allowing us to create a movement like this across the church," the bishop said. "This campaign is about the power of us working across communities, churches and businesses. It's the possibility of a 'we' that we haven't been able to imagine before now.

"We as United Methodists can blanket the entire country of Sierra Leone in the next year with more than $1 million in nets," he announced. "And we can do a lot more: increasing the number of clinics, training more birth attendants to deliver healthy babies, treating the water systems to provide clean water and improving sanitary conditions."

Schol and Bickerton were introduced by two local United Methodist youth who also have raised thousands of dollars for Nothing But Nets. Elisabeth Clymer, 14, of Springfield, Va., and Zack Ayer, 17, of Centerville, Va., described their school and church fundraising feats at the dinner.

Just hours earlier they had appeared with the bishops and received certificates of appreciation at a downtown rally to kick off Washington's own fundraising campaign to raise $100,000 for Nothing But Nets.

"The fact that malaria can be prevented by a net costing just $10 blows my mind," Ayers told the dinner gathering. "My message to other youth is to not be afraid to make a stand and make a difference. You can do it."

In introducing Ayers and Clymer, Elizabeth Gore, campaign director for the U.N. Foundation, lauded them and other youth for their leadership in raising funds and building support for Nothing But Nets.

"They have been awesome goodwill ambassadors for this campaign," she said. "Our youth may be the reason why the White House has started paying attention to our efforts. They are key to our success."

Donations to the Nothing But Nets Campaign can be madeonline. Gifts received through June 30 will go directly toward the purchase of mosquito nets for Sierra Leone.

* John Coleman is a freelance journalist in the Washington, D.C., area.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or [email protected].

Related video

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton:
"A grassroots effort is keeping 'Nothing But Nets' on the front page."

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres:
"In refugee camps&ellipsis; mortality rates are dropping dramatically because of the nets."

Elizabeth Clymer, Age 14:
"It's a matter of life and death."

Zack Ayers, Age 17:
"Youth can step up and make a difference."

Related articles

DC Launches nets campaign

UMCOR Issues $200,000 Challenge Grant for Sierra Leone Mosquito Nets

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German gift will buy nets for Africa

Malaria initiatives join for 1st time in Côte d'Ivoire outreach

One Million Nets: A Promise Realized

Profile: Elisabeth Clymer


Nothing But Nets Campaign

Nothing But Nets Products

Malaria Initiatives of The United Methodist Church

Global Health Initiative

United Methodist Committee on Relief

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