|Soccer player’s new goal: End malaria|
Charles Ssali, a 12-year-old Ugandan soccer player and malaria
survivor, is an ambassador for United Against Malaria. Joining him at
the initiative’s Nov. 10
launch in New York are, from left: United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton,
Ray Chambers, United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria, and Peter Chernin,
chairman of Malaria No More. A UMNS Photo by Linda Bloom.
By Linda Bloom*
Nov. 10, 2009 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
An avid soccer player, 12-year-old Charles Ssali is excited about next year’s World Cup tournament.
But the Ugandan youth came to New York on Nov. 10 to promote another type of goal—the elimination of malaria.
Ssali joined anti-malaria advocates, including United Methodist Bishop
Thomas Bickerton, at the ESPN Zone in Times Square for the launch of
United Against Malaria, a new initiative to provide universal access to
mosquito nets and malaria medicine in Africa by the end of 2010.
By involving soccer players, the initiative is using interest in the
2010 World Cup in South Africa as a way to raise awareness, increase
prevention and build a worldwide commitment to end the disease.
The United Methodist Church is involved in the Nothing But Nets malaria
initiative of the United Nations Foundation, which is a founding
partner of United Against Malaria. Bickerton is a denominational
spokesperson on its malaria prevention efforts.
“This is just the latest in a series of collaborations and partnerships
that we’re just happy to be a part of,” he said. “We’re all in this
together in the campaign to beat malaria.”
Eighty-five percent of those who die from malaria are African children under the age of 5.
Ssali beat the odds.
“When I was about 4 years, I suffered from malaria,” he told those
gathered at the launch. “My mother took me immediately to the health
workers and they gave me treatment.”
Now the young soccer star is leading the United Against Malaria team,
and asking public and private leaders to pledge their support by
signing a campaign soccer ball that will be delivered to African
In his remarks, Bickerton pointed to two United Methodist youth who
also have raised awareness—and funds—for malaria
With the help of her family, church and community, Katherine
Commale, an elementary school student and member of Hopewell United
Methodist Church in Downingtown, Pa., has raised $120,000 for the
Nothing But Nets Project.
Teen Elisabeth Clymer came up with the idea of a “swat team” that
uses fly swatters to coax donations from the congregation at Messiah
United Methodist Church in Springfield, Va., and has raised $15,000 so
“Whether it be soccer fans or churchgoers, it’s easy to mobilize yourself for an effort such as this,” Bickerton said.
United Methodists have mobilized by approving a $75 million fundraising
goal for Imagine No Malaria, a campaign that will expand grassroots
programs like Nothing But Nets and develop more comprehensive efforts
to promote prevention and education activities, strengthen health
delivery systems and train health care workers to more effectively
treat the disease.
The same mobilization can happen through the world of sports. Don
Garber, commissioner of Major League Soccer, endorsed the idea of
educating the fan base about malaria, noting that people engaged in
sports have the opportunity to make a difference. “My belief is if you
can, you should,” he said.
For Ssali, the next stop is Brussels, where he will ask European
leaders to sign his soccer ball and make a commitment to eliminate
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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