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Gifts of the Soul MAG
After raising more than $300 to prevent malaria in Third World countries, I felt amazing. While friends and family praised me for the gesture, I knew I would receive no recognition from the recipients. But what I did receive was a feeling that I can neither describe nor verbalize. I guess philanthropy really touches people's souls.
It all began on a dull day in fifth grade. It was Friday, and everyone was dying to finish class and go home. As our teacher handed out our Time For Kids magazines, I stared into space, thinking about my plans for the weekend. It turned out, though, that one small article in that magazine would change my life: a story about the “Veto the 'Squito” campaign against malaria.
I took in every word. Everyone around me had their eyes stuck on the clock, but mine were glued to the article. When my teacher read that malaria kills one million people each year, I felt like crying. How can you prevent malaria? I wondered. Is there a cure?
That day, I learned that malaria is transmitted by a parasite living in an animal: a monkey, for example. When a mosquito bites that monkey, it acquires the disease-carrying parasite, and when the mosquito bites a person, the parasite is then released into their bloodstream. I also learned a statistic that really stuck with me: a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.
The last thing that caught my eye was a small asterisk at the bottom of the page. It said that you could prevent malaria by simply purchasing a $5 or $10 bed-net for parts of Africa and other regions where malaria is common. The bed-nets are tied over the recipient's bed to prevent mosquitoes from biting and infecting them during the night.
That night I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned, envisioning that one line: “A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.” I had to do something. But what could I possibly do? I racked my brain. My thoughts raced. I tried to focus on other things: Maybe I would go to the movies tomorrow. No, I was saving my money for a new American Girl Doll. It took me a long time to save up that $100 …Wait! $100! $10 per bed-net … I had my idea!
Although it was way past my bedtime, I sprang out of bed and flung open my parents' door. My mom looked up, exclaiming, “Why are you still up?”
“It's important,” I replied. I explained the article we'd read in class, and how it had stayed in my mind. Finally, I told my parents how I realized that the $100 I had saved for an American Girl Doll would be far better spent on 10 bed-nets. I already had two American Girl Dolls, and would soon outgrow them anyway. My mom gave me a huge hug and told me she was incredibly proud of my thoughtfulness. I was too young at that point to realize the impact of my actions.
The following day, I brainstormed ways to fundraise. I imagined organizing a dance-off, a bake sale – doing something more than just making colorful posters to be hung up at school, only to be ripped down in a week. Finally, once again, I decided to put the matter in my own hands.
That year, my eleventh birthday party took place at a rock-climbing gym. On the invitation, I requested that in lieu of gifts, my friends bring donations for bed-nets to stop the spread of malaria in Africa. I pitched in the $100 I had been saving for a doll; that, along with my friends' generosity, raised $400. One of my dad's patients added to our total when she learned about my cause. I was thrilled with the results, and I felt incredible. In a way, I had saved people's lives.
A few weeks later I received an invitation to my friend's birthday party. As I was scanning the invitation, something caught my eye. “Sophie requests that you bring donations to buy bed-nets in lieu of gifts.” I beamed, knowing I had inspired somebody else to perform the same act of kindness.
My passion for making a difference in the fight against malaria has not subsided. In fact, I hope to visit some of the places that benefit from the work of “Veto the 'Squito.” Since my great-aunt and uncle offered me the amazing opportunity to travel anywhere in the world, I will visit Africa this summer. Although I am looking forward to experiencing the rich culture and gorgeous landscape, I really hope to deliver some bed-nets in person.
I never could have imagined the incredible feeling that comes from giving. As the poet Maya Angelou wrote, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”