- NETwork Against Malaria fights malaria in Uganda.
- The charity provides insecticide-treated bed nets to impoverished families.
- One $10 net helps prevent malaria for the entire household.
- Group members expect to exceed 200 nets by June.
The average Ugandan student misses a total of two months of school as a result of malaria infections, said Maura McGlynn, president of NETwork Against Malaria, a national charity.
Maura, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the group's mission is to provide young children and pregnant women in Uganda with malaria nets. The oldest of five girls, Maura works with her family and friends to send the insecticide-treated nets to schools in Uganda and educate families on how to protect themselves.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. Its flu-like symptoms include fever, chills and nausea. If left untreated it can cause severe and sometimes fatal liver damage and other complications.
Each year 350 million to 500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and more than one million people die, most of them young children, according to the Web site. The disease is usually curable and can be prevented by using insecticides and bed nets.
While Maura was studying at Marquette last year, her family in Belleville, Ill. befriended the Rev. Michael Christopher Mugisa Mujule, a missionary priest from Uganda who spoke at their home parish of the malaria endemic in his home country. Maura's 14-year-old sister, Mary Claire McGlynn, said her family invited Mujule to lunch at their home. She said Mujule stayed until almost 10 p.m. recounting his past experiences in Uganda, including his own near-death encounters with malaria.
"He talked about everything like it's not a big deal," she said.
Over the next few months, the McGlynn family encouraged schools and parishes to hold fundraisers to support Mujule's cause.
"Originally, I just expected it to be a onetime thing," Mary Claire said.
But over Christmas break the family began the process of becoming a non-profit organization.
To qualify as a non-profit, Maura said the group had to form an executive board, register a bank account and report financial information. She said it should receive non-profit status soon.
"That'll keep us motivated," Maura said.
Helping at-risk families is more complicated than just sending malaria nets, Maura said. Because many of the families live in severe poverty, she said they may sell the nets for money to buy food and other expenses. Maura said Mujule has seen families use the nets as curtains or tablecloths.
NETwork's plan, Maura said, is to send the nets to schools founded by Mujule in Uganda and inform the students how to use them. Students will then bring the nets home and teach their families.
The nets cost just 10 U.S. dollars, which is still too much for most Ugandan families, Maura said.
Maura studied abroad in South Africa last semester. There, she said she saw poverty like she'd never seen in the United States. She said she learned just how much good a dollar can do.
"Ten dollars can save multiple people," she said, because the insecticide from just one net repels mosquitoes throughout a home and decreases the risk of malaria.
"We've raised a lot more than we anticipated," Maura said.
They've already raised several hundred dollars, mostly in direct donations, Maura said.
"People have been really receptive," Maura said.
Her sister, Margaret McGlynn, a sophomore at Creighton University in Nebraska, said they have been able to network through friends and family. She said they have volunteers at Marquette, Creighton, University of Dayton and Saint Louis University, and in Iowa and Minnesota.
Margaret said she is working with her residence hall director at Creighton on an event where students use meal plan money to donate to NETwork. She said there are between 50 and 60 sophomores at Creighton involved with NETwork.
Mary Claire said the group's original goal was to send 200 nets by June, but expects to exceed that.
Maura said those looking for more information can join the organization's Facebook group, where there are links to NETwork's blog and an informational video.
"This is something people can actually work on and change," Maura said. "It's in people's hands and they can do something about it."