On the Eve of World Malaria day, Saturday, April 24, eight students from Bellevue College slept out on the Liberal Arts Quad at the University of Washington to participate in the Sleep Out to End Malaria.
The Sleep Out to End Malaria is a movement to raise awareness for the disease and to push for government action to maintain and increase the funding to end it by 2015.
The event was hosted by United Against Malaria in conjunction with other groups sponsored by the United Nations foundation.
Malaria, a deadly disease spread by mosquitoes, was eradicated in the United States in the 1950s. The goal back then was to diminish the disease worldwide, but because of lack of funding within all the nations, that plan had fallen short.
In Africa, there are about half a billion cases per year, and a child dies every 30 seconds from malaria. The disease is preventable by sleeping under a mosquito net at night.
Nothing but Nets, one of the organizations associated with the event, is a global grassroots movement that aims to prevent the spread of malaria by purchasing, distributing and teaching the proper use of mosquito nets.
With a $10 donation, Nothing but Nets will provide a net to a child in Africa.
“[Malaria] is so preventable,” said Natalie Eberts, a BC student who participated in the sleep out. “Ten dollars can save a life, the value of a human life. You could probably spend that on a couple of lattes or jeans or something. What’s more important?”
The sleep out had a showing of “When the Night Comes,” a documentary film about malaria in Africa.
“When the Night Comes” was produced by Bobby Bailey, one of the founders of Invisible Children.
The film follows Bailey and two friends as they travel to Africa to discover the absurdity of why malaria has not been defeated, and they listen to the stories of those who have been affected by the disease’s deadly grip.
Anastasia and Kenny Corman, two BC students, did not have much of an understanding of malaria before the film.
“It was a really well done film,” said K. Corman. “With statistics like they got, they could have easily made it extremely negative, but they still kept it kind of empowering. Like, this is a problem and this is what you can do.”
To further promote the cause, UAM is not only hosting the sleep out at UW but at a couple of other college campuses across the country.
“One reason I felt particularly interested in going was because it specifically seemed like there were only maybe six spots around the entire United States where people are really gathering in large numbers to do this. And I thought, oh man, what an opportunity to be so close,” said K. Corman.
Although the event was open to anyone, most of the participants of the sleep out were UW students.
Eberts and her friends found out about the event two weeks before it happened, and they spent a week promoting it on the BC campus.
“We got about 800 fliers to give to people in person, and so we were really glad that eight people came. But it probably could have been more if we had more time,” said Eberts.
Instead of putting up posters, they spent a day advertising through chalk messages on the campus grounds, a common grad school activism approach to promoting events that caught many students’ attention.
“I know a lot of people at least stopped and looked at it,” said Eberts. “They should stop and ask. And they seemed, when it was just one person, like one-on-one talking, they were a lot more receptive and seemed very interested.”
Eberts also presented the event to her classes and got funding for free bus tickets to provide to students.
Eberts, and both Cormans are now planning to show a screening of “When the Night Comes” at BC.
“There’s a chance of doing it again here, because now we kind of know more about the issue,” said A. Corman. “And it’s all free; you don’t have to do anything else. If you want, you could do a donation, but it’s not required. Just get the word out, that’s the point.”
K. Corman noted how easy it was to show support.
“One thing that I thought was really cool was that one of the purposes for [the sleep out] was just to make a statement by showing up. I thought that was a really nice change from all the organizations and events where they’re trying to get you to donate, which is great, too. But, it’s a lot more inviting to just go somewhere and know that they’re going to be really happy that you showed up,” he said.
“And then you get hooked and you wanna contribute if you can,” said Eberts. “Even if you can’t afford it, it’s a good way to get started with activism and stuff.”
Eberts also hopes to have a campaign in which students can call or write a post card to their legislators to tell them the importance of the World Malaria Fund, President’s Malaria Initiative, and to ask for their support on the issues. “I just feel that, with humanity, we have so much in common and we don’t need to create divisions by nations or continents,” said Eberts. “If you could save a life, you don’t need to debate about whether it’s a responsibility or an act of government responsibility to take care of this. We really need that last push. And I mean, it’d be such an achievement for our generation to rid the world of malaria!”