Local helps prevent malaria

Barbara Lawlor
Gilpin County

Last fall Gilpin County student Alessandro Lauria raised money to by insecticide-treated nets for the residents of Senegal. He and his mother traveled to the African town to deliver the nets to those who needed them for the prevention of malaria, the number one killer of small children and the elderly.
The Laurias have returned and are happy to report the trip went smoothly — mission accomplished. Alessandro was able to purchase 481 insecticide-treated nets for distribution. The purchase of the nets was made possible by 35 private donations, $470 raised by his school and a grant for $1,000 from the Mountain Forum for Peace. All of the money raised, 100 percent of the donations, went to the purchase of nets.
Two different types of nets were available from the distributor, ranging in price from $3 to $6. Unfortunately, they ran out of the $3 nets, but at least he was able to get all the nets he needed. When he makes the trip again he will attempt to buy the $3 nets so he can buy more of them.
Alessandro is eager to speak about his trip and to let the people who donated to the project know that their money was well-spent. He and his mother traveled seven hours from the village to the capital of Dakar where they picked up the nets and back again. The next day 150 nets were loaded onto a donkey cart and transported along the beach to the clinic.
“A ceremony was arranged in Mboro-sur-Mer, and the chief of the village came and made a speech about what a difference I would be making with my project for his village, Alessandro said. “He also said that many foreigners come for tourism and never help the people. He was grateful for the contribution to his community. He pointed out that malaria was a serious problem that kills many people in the village every year.”
After the speech many village women with young children gathered for the net distribution. Alessandro handed out 150 nets in the entryway to the health clinic in an hour before he ran out for that day. More nets were brought in the next day.
While he was there, his mother, Kristine, was treating malaria patients and Alessandro saw first-hand how disease was ravaging the village. “I saw children suffering from malaria, including an infant having a seizure, and a little girl with a fever over 105 degrees. It was very difficult to witness those things. I was able to leave nets with the parents, so hopefully they will not have to suffer like that again.”
It soon became obvious to Alessandro that there was still a great need. Not everyone was able to receive a net. Even though he knew that would be the case, it still was difficult, and he was disappointed that his project helped so few when many were in need. ‘It made me more determined to expand my project so that I can distribute even more nets next year. I am throwing around some more ideas about fund raising this coming year,” said Alessandro, who developed friends and partners during his stay, the people who will help keep his project going.
One of them is the village midwife in Mboro-sur-Mer who works at the health clinic and is a good friend of Kristine’s. The midwife was thrilled about the project because she sees so many cases of malaria each year. She is going to keep statistics for Alessandro each month and send the data to him along with statistics from the previous year for that month so that he can compare cases of malaria since the net distribution.
The midwife also plans to ask the chief for a plot of land on the beach in which to build some huts for his mom and him, so they could have their own place to stay every time they go. Kristine and Alessandro feel honored that the community is doing something like this for foreigners.
They are also grateful for the donations they received, and Alessandro is already fired up about doing better in the upcoming year. For more information, contact malariadefenseproject@gmail.com.