Seven months of varying degrees of busyness, from a total excess of free time that I chose to spend on Facebook to feeling unbelievably swamped with either schoolwork or the realization that college is no longer something abstract I don’t have to worry about (but a reality I’ll have to confront and hopefully embrace a year from now).
I’m not going to pretend this hiatus wasn’t careless on my part. Nor will I flatter myself by supposing many people were disappointed by my absence. But alas, I’m back, and the reason I haven’t just given up this little pet project is, well, I have another little pet project I want to keep you guys and gals updated on through STW4D.
Here’s the situation: My high school has a chapter (the founding chapter, in fact) of a grassroots charitable organization known as NETwork Against Malaria (yes, those letters are supposed to be capitalized). Its mission is simple to state and, as far as its administration claims, not that much less simple to execute – contribute as much as possible to the prevention of malaria in Uganda (particularly the Hoima District) and support the education of Ugandan children, both of which should in theory combat the vicious circle of poverty that far too many Ugandan families face.
So the sales pitch goes, $10 buys a long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net (ITN), with which as many as 3 people can protect themselves from Plasmodium-carrying mosquitoes during sleep. Of course, extra expenses go into transport and distribution, the details of which I’d like to investigate further. But the figures don’t lie. UNICEF reports that child mortality rates can decrease by 20% due to the utilization of ITNs alone, and each year the NETwork Against Malaria, small though it may be, consistently delivers such nets at a rate of about 1,000 nets per distribution.
That number could always be higher, though. I don’t need to tell you how serious a public health threat malaria is in many developing nations. This is why I’m making it a personal mission of mine to make my sincerest effort to improve my local NETwork chapter’s efficiency, extent, and collaboration with larger, reputable charities with like-minded goals.
Because I think the largest obstacle to solving massive social problems like this is, as Bill Gates noted in his outstanding Harvard commencement address, the paralyzing appearance of complexity in these problems, I’m going to approach this mission as critically as I can with the aim of breaking it down into simpler, manageable goals. Maybe you’re in as much a position of privilege as I am and want to see if this whole “changing the world” thing really can be done, when your instinct is to play another round of Candy Crush because “why bother, there’s nothing I can do, right?” (Heaven knows I’ve felt like that.) Or maybe you have things figured out a lot more than I do and my following posts will make you facepalm at my naïveté. If you’re in the latter group, please inform me of where my inevitable mistakes are, and if you’re in the former, I encourage you to check out my updates on how exactly I’m going to do this.
And by all means, if you have ideas, please don’t hesitate to pitch them! I’m only one guy (with currently shortened hippy hair).