Monday, March 28, 2011

Sleeping Under a Malaria Net in The Nuru International Staff House in Kuria Kenya

Again, I find myself with many stories to tell, but this one I'll keep short and simple. I just woke up after my sixth night sleeping in a different location. (my bed, my couch, an airplane, Nairobi, Border Point Hotel, and now the Nuru staff house). Each night since arriving in Africa, I've been finding myself more and more adjusted. Here in Kuria, it is the rainy season, and there have been some epic storms. Yesterday evening I sat on the front porch of the staff house and watched an amazing storm roll in, and for two nights in a row, I fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain on a tin roof along with thunder rolls I haven't heard in the states for a long time.

Sitting on the porch reminded me of times in my childhood when huge storms would roll in, and all of us who lived on 15th Street would watch as our street flooded. Sometimes people would play in the floods or step under their gutters with shampoo and take a 'natural' shower. Those are some bright and vivid memories of growing up, and now I'm making new memories while not forgetting the old.

Last night I slept in a bed undera bed net for the third night in a row. The first night I had a little trouble with my net, but I had no doubt it offered me protection. I could hear Mosquitos flying on just the other side of it, but I was safe and protected from their malaria transmitting bites. (but, I've always attracted Mosquitos, so I haven't been completely unbitten, but the nets offer a significant protection.

Looking at my bed, I sort of reflected on the fact that to some it probably looks like a canopy bed, but the purpose of this bed is not aesthetics as much as survival. Nearly one million people die each year from malaria. Most of them are under the age of five. Can you imagine it? Death from a mosquito bite? The way I got bit as a child, I would have been part of that statistic, had I lived in a different part of the world.

Here in Kuria though, this is all changing. The community is learning about malaria prevention, and local health care workers are taking life saving tools like bed nets into the community where they are sold for a reasonable price and where people can undergo proper training on how to use them. Without training and education, these nets become soccer balls, curtains, and wedding dresses because people just don't know how to use them.

That's one of the amazing things about Nuru's work here. It's all locally led, being built to be both financially self-saustainable and scalable to neighboring communities. In just two a very short time, Nuru has grown from impacting a few families to over 10,000 people. And it's not just malaria prevention and bed nets. It's food production, economic development, education, and clean water too.

Each night as I go to sleep, I give thanks for my bed net. I give thanks for the healthcare interventions that I have taken for granted for most of my life, and I think about how life is changing for these beautiful people in Kuria Kenya.

May we, as we lie down, and as we wake up, be thankful for the life and the opportunities we have been given, and may we each consider ways that we can use the lives we've been given to be ambassadors of hope to our global neighbors.

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