Buena Vista teen takes Nothing But Nets message to "Court"

May 17, 2007

Every chance Ryan Fong has to talk about what mosquitoes can do to children, he’s doing it. Sometimes the 14-year-old with the blazing smile says he’s telling kids at his school how children are dying by the thousands daily in Africa, because of the disease mosquitoes carry.


Friday, May 11 at Alameda’s Naval airbase gymnasium, Fong was catching his breath midway through a four-hour “3 on 3” basketball tournament. He was getting coached by his pastor, the Rev. Michael Yoshii, on just how halftime should go. When the buzzer sounded to end the first half he stepped to the microphone on the hardwoods, and, like a seasoned sportscaster told a crowd of more than 50 why they should care about the Nothing But Nets campaign.


“I talk[ed] about how malaria is spread and how dangerous it is,” says Fong, who says he wasn’t the slightest bit nervous talking to his teammates about the campaign. “I like helping people, especially people who are not as fortunate as me because they don’t have what I have. I tell about the campaign basically all over – pass the message to friends and family. It’s about how 10 dollars really helps. And my friends listen to me – they ask questions and sound interested.”


The Nothing But Nets campaign kicked off in California-Nevada Annual Conference just three months ago, and with the help of churches like Buena Vista UMC it’s catching the attention of teenagers, basketball enthusiasts and people of faith. “I think it’s really important for young people to help,” Fong notes, “because they can help get the story to other kids.”


The campaign seeks to raise money to purchase insecticide-treated bed nets for families in Africa. The nets are one of the most effective ways to prevent malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Mosquitoes strike mostly at night, when families are sleeping. For just $10, the Nothing But Nets campaign can buy a bed net, distribute it to a family and explain its use. $10 to save a life.


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged matching funds for donations. The United Methodist Church is one of the campaign’s sponsors, along with Sports Illustrated, the United Nations Foundation and several other organizations.


“Even the smallest things can help, even five dollars or 10 dollars – it helps,” Fong says, adding that getting the message spread to young people is important because they’ll start thinking of it at an early age and the message will stay with them a long time. Aside from that, they can get their parents involved.


For more information about Nothing But Nets, including how to win a trip to Africa by sharing your story with the Nothing But Nets campaign, go to Nothing But Nets Essay Contest 


For information on Malaria Advocacy Boot Camps in the Cal-Nevada Conference, contact the Communications Office at 916.374.1518.