Students Advocate on Capitol Hill for Imagine No Malaria

March 15, 2012

Imagine No Malaria College Connection brings 45 students from 15 schools to advocate with members of Congress.

Earlier this month 45 students and their leaders, representing 15 colleges and universities, attended an education and advocacy event in Washington, D.C. called "Imagine No Malaria Student Days on the Hill."
The Imagine No Malaria College Connection provided training on how to be an effective advocate to members of Congress. Group members then made visits to their elected officials, to urge the U.S. government to continue its support of efforts to eradicate poverty-related diseases such as malaria.
The event was co-sponsored by the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) and the College Connection.
Imagine No Malaria is an effort by the people of The United Methodist Church to put their faith into action to end preventable deaths by malaria in Africa by 2015 – especially the deaths of children and mothers. As a life-saving ministry, Imagine No Malaria aims to empower the people of Africa to overcome malaria's burden.
This June, the Annual Conference Offering of the California-Nevada Annual Conference will go to Imagine No Malaria, and the Conference is hosting a special event* on Thursday evening (June 21) to raise more funds for INM.
Schools represented at the March 4-6 event were Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania; American University, Washington, D.C.; Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina; Columbia College, Cola, South Carolina; Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA; Paine College, Augusta, Georgia; Shenandoah University, Winchester, Virginia; Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa; Spartanburg (SC) Methodist College; the University of Mount Union, Alliance, Ohio; University of Virginia, Charlottesville; West Virginia Wesleyan University, Buckhannon; Willamette University, Salem, Oregon; Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC; and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
"This is a critical time for global health funding because the U.S. Congress is feeling pressure to cut spending," said the Rev. Clayton Childers, director of advocacy for Imagine No Malaria. "The U.S. government has been a world leader in the fight against malaria and we are seeing significant progress. Our interventions using treated mosquito nets, education, timely diagnosis, and treatment are clearly working."
Childers said death rates have declined, but added that potential funding cuts are a real concern. "If the U.S. government cuts back on its support, other nations and non-governmental organizations could follow suit," he said, "and deaths from malaria could escalate. That's what we don't want to see happen, not after all the progress we have made."
This past October, college students were among those attending Imagine No Malaria Days on the Hill. Sarah Roncolato, chair of the Imagine No Malaria College Connection committee and a staff member at Allegheny College in western Pennsylvania, said these students were excited to be part of the political process, advocating for an important cause.
"When they returned to campus, they thought, 'We've got to do this again and get even more students involved,'" Roncolato said.
This month, the students met at the Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington. Besides learning how to make an effective visit to their Congressional representatives, they learned about the malaria crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, where a child under age five dies from malaria every 45 seconds.
They also learned about the ongoing support The United Methodist Church is providing through its Imagine No Malaria campaign. The United Methodist Church has operated hospitals and clinics throughout Africa for more than 160 years. Just last year, the denomination helped train health boards in Zimbabwe, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Democratic Republic of Congo. These health boards will oversee the planning and implementation of in-country malaria programs.
Through its Nothing But Nets effort, the denomination was part of a huge, multi-organization effort in November that distributed more than 2 million nets in Sierra Leone. The United Methodist Church provided 640,000 of those bed nets.
The Imagine No Malaria College Connection students' message to Congress was, "We are proud of what the U.S. government is doing to support global health and to fight diseases like malaria. We want U.S. government investments in global health to continue in the future. Our nation's generosity is saving lives every day. We need to not waver in our work to support global health."
Participating students are expected to take what they learned to their campuses, according to Roncolato. She said it is hoped they will organize events to raise malaria awareness, and raise funds for Imagine No Malaria.
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*Read the March 1, 2012 Instant Connection story, Take Me out to the Special Event at ACS and the March 8 story, Get Tickets Now for Special Bishop's Event at ACS.