Atlanta Abuzz in the Fight Against Malaria


An early bird chirps in the nearby tree.


The sun rises; the first ray of sunlight penetrates my bedroom window.


These are the opening lines of the winning essay in the 2012 World Malaria Day Make a Difference Essay Contest, by 11th grader Adriana Embus, of the Brookstone School in Columbus, GA.

Adriana entered the contest after hearing about NetsforLife® at the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta’s Ministry Fair, which was held at St. Philip’s Cathedral in Atlanta. Adriana was there to give a social justice workshop about a group she is part of, called “Infusion” – an Episcopal ministry in the Chattahoochee Valley that seeks to promote understanding of diversity in the community. During the day, she also had a chance to learn about other ministries going on in Atlanta, including the diocesan campaign to fight malaria through NetsforLife®.

“The Keynote Speaker of the Fair’s luncheon spoke about World Malaria Day and the importance of the topic,” Adriana said in an interview with Chad Brinkman, Associate for the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund. “As I heard about NetsforLife® and the difference it has made, my interest grew and I checked out the website. Once I read about the Malaria Day Contest, I was hooked.”

The essay prompt for the contest was, “what can young people do to make a difference in the global fight against malaria?” In response, Adriana wrote about a personal experience she had had during a group visit to the town of Virginia in the West African country of Liberia, in the summer of 2011:

In a small bedroom, with only a small table and bed, there were three children curled into fetal positions with chill bumps all along their arms and legs. Turning around to find an adult, I asked the director of the orphanage why they were so cold. Responding in a deep Liberian-English accent, she said, “Malaria.”

As Adriana writes, she realized that she and her group had been looking for material needs that they could help fill, while missing what the real need was: knowledge about how to prevent this deadly disease.

Adriana’s school service team had traveled to Liberia with workshops planned for kids their age and younger on leadership, HIV/AIDS and American culture. However, after learning that their counterparts lacked accurate information about the cause of malaria and ways to prevent it, they changed their presentations to meet this need.

“Only with a few pieces of information did we find a way to make a difference in Liberia,” she said, “and our team was determined to make an even bigger one back home.”

Since returning from Liberia, Adriana has become active in the fight against malaria, both with her school and independently, giving workshops at community events and helping people in her local area to learn more and take action.

“My goal is to encourage others to get involved,” she said, “because there are hundreds of ways to help. I have spoken about malaria at school, church and local activist groups because I know that sharing the information will only encourage others to join the fight against malaria.”

Sharing information is at the core of both the NetsforLife® program partnership, which trains local health volunteers to educate their communities, hang nets in homes and provide follow-up to ensure proper net use, and the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund, the church-wide campaign to engage and unite Episcopalians in the fight against malaria.

As Adriana learned at the Ministry Fair, the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta has been deeply involved in raising awareness and support for malaria prevention through the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund. In fact, Atlanta has special significance in the fight against this disease – the Communicable Disease Center (CDC, now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) was established in the city in 1946 in order to spearhead the elimination of malaria in the southeastern United States.

The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta began its NetsforLife® campaign in August 2011, with a challenge to raise funds for 35,000 nets (one for each communicant) by November 2012. Parishes large and small are contributing to the effort in creative ways, including the Cathedral of St. Philip’s March Madness Bracket Tournament (the $12 entry buys a mosquito net and training for a local health volunteer) and a special year-long giving campaign at the Church of the Common Ground, where members, most of whom are homeless, feel connected to the worldwide communion of saints by contributing whenever they can. The diocese also held a video contest, asking youth to submit a 60-second movie on the recent history of malaria in Georgia, and ways its citizens have made and continue to make a difference in the fight against malaria.

“The Diocese of Atlanta has really taken to its charge to raise 35,000 nets,” said Joy Shigaki, Director of the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund and Church Campaigns for Episcopal Relief & Development. “It is wonderful to see all the creative ways congregations and local ministries are engaging around this important issue.”

Alongside other parishes, dioceses, Episcopal schools, and seminaries across the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta is boosting awareness about malaria and contributing to the goal of raising $5 million by the end of 2012. By the end of 2011, NetsforLife® had distributed 8.5 million mosquito nets, reducing the rate of malaria-related deaths by 46% in communities where the program is active. Additional support is needed to help “sustain the gains” that have been made against this deadly disease.

“With the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund wrapping up at the end of this year, all local efforts will help us reach our goal and continue to invest in our innovative malaria control work,” Shigaki said. “Our efforts to unite Episcopalians will have a lasting impact, inspiring congregations to continue supporting this vital program partnership.”

Double your impact in the fight against malaria by donating to the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund before May 25! Gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $430,000. Donate online or over the phone at 1.855.312.HEAL (4325).


Photos from left: Courtesy of Church of the Common Ground; Courtesy of the Diocese of Atlanta for Episcopal Relief & Development; Courtesy of Christ Church, Norcross