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Florida students aim to stop malaria spread

Last summer, Courtney Satkoski, Florida Gulf Coast University interdisciplinary studies professor, and Neil Wilkinson, an instructor, organized the Malaria Project. It is an ongoing civic engagement program designed to raise public awareness about malaria’s spread in sub-Saharan Africa.

The project grew to be one of the most successful community initiatives in FGCU history. It even garnered attention from a former United States president.

Satkoski and Wilkinson worked with the Carter Center, an organization started by former President Jimmy Carter.

The project raised funds to send bed nets to Kanke, Nigeria. The bed nets, dipped in insect repellent, can protect a family of six from female mosquitoes, carriers of the disease.

‘Kanke is just the first village we are working with,’ Satkoski said. ‘When the Carter Center starts to move city-to-city, we will move with them.’

The efforts raised thousands of dollars more than planned. Carter was so impressed by what the FGCU students did that he wrote thank you letters to the students.

‘We are inspired by the enthusiasm you have dedicated to this historic effort and are glad to know that we have a generation of conscientious young citizens committing to advancing global health,’ Carter said.

Malaria is one of the most dangerous diseases in Africa. Worldwide, more than 3 billion people are at risk of catching it and almost 1 million people die each year. The disease, caused by bites from infected mosquitoes, spreads from person to person quickly.

‘Every 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria,’ Satkoski said.

There are 38,000 families in Kanke and the goal is to give each family a net.

‘Nets are $5 apiece,’ said Satkoski. ‘The Carter Center’s goal was to send 38,000 nets over and so far we have sent roughly 4,000.’

Satkoski had her Foundations of Civic Engagement class get involved with the project. There were 24 students working on the Malaria Project for five weeks.

‘Our original goal was to raise $5,000. We ended up with $11,000,’ Satkoski said.

An additional $13,000 came from community donations.

Community members also donated items, such as gift cards, to raffle. One business owner allowed students to host an event at a venue free-of-charge.

FGCU students raised money by holding events such as car washes, bake sales and a 5K race.

Once the nets were purchased, the Malaria Project’s partners, the Carter Center and Clarke Mosquito Control, stepped in.

‘The Carter Center actually goes with the nets to Kanke and also educates the villagers on how to use them,’ Satkoski said. ‘Clarke Mosquito Control helped a lot by matching what we made dollar for dollar.’

Having the Carter Center deliver the nets personally helps prevent the nets from falling into the wrong hands and being used for something other than their intended purpose, according to Satkoski.

‘One concern was if the nets were shipped over by themselves if they would be used for things other than what they were anticipated for,’ Satkoski said. ‘Corruption could have occurred by villagers reselling the nets or using them for clothing instead.’

This semester there are three classes working on the project.

‘I hope that we keep progressing and are able to help as many people as we can,’ said Satkoski. ‘With more classes and volunteers working on the Malaria Project we can keep helping to save more families.’

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