Katherine Commale is a 10-year-old fourth grader from Pennsylvania. At the age of five she began raising money to purchase nets for children in Africa to help fight the spread of malaria.
By Katherine Commale, age 10
When I was five, I learned about malaria in Africa. I learned that every 30 seconds a child dies from this disease. I also learned about the special nets that can stop the mosquitoes. I was really sad to learn that a child dies every 30 seconds. I asked my mom, “Why doesn’t everyone have a net?” She told me that many of the people that get malaria are very poor and can’t afford one, even at just $10 a net. At that moment, I wanted to send nets right away. So that is what I did.
I started to teach people about malaria and mosquito nets. I made a diorama of an African hut (my little brother helped too) to show how the nets work and even got a real mosquito net to show people. I made presentations at churches and schools. Also, every holiday season I make something called a bed net gift certificate. I hand-decorate them with my friends. People buy them in honor of someone and a net is sent to Africa for them. Every holiday season I sell about 750 of them. They are really cool.
Before I was six-years-old I raised over $10,000. At this time, the United Nations Foundation was creating a new campaign called Nothing But Nets (NBN). They heard about what I was doing and asked me if I would be a spokes “kid” for the campaign. I said, “Sure!” NBN is a global, grassroots campaign to raise awareness and money to fight malaria. NBN has sent over 4 million nets to more than 20 countries. NBN is really neat because anyone anywhere can send a net to an African family.
I have helped the campaign in many different ways over the past four years. I participated in the campaign launch in NYC (on my 6th birthday too). I was in a VH1 commercial. The United Methodist Church made a video about my work which was shown in churches all over the country.
I was invited to go to the White House for the first National Malaria Awareness Day. It was neat to hear President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush speak about nets, but the food was too fancy! I took my first airplane ride to a conference in Texas where I spoke to International Bishops and lay people. President Clinton also invited me to raise more money for nets with him at the Clinton Global Initiative. He was really tall and Tony Blair winked at me. That same day I did a live interview on CNN. I wasn’t nervous at all, but my mom sure was.
I was also on the news and in newspapers and magazines. My friends and teachers liked it when I was in Time for Kids. I was also on the front page of the NY Times. My mom and I received over 1,000 emails in two weeks from all over the world. On World Malaria Day in 2009, I was given the Dragonfly Award by The White House. It is a really pretty award “For Remarkable Efforts in Fighting Malaria.” For World Malaria Day, 2010, I went to Washington, DC with WNBA star Ruth Riley and retired MLS star Diego Gutierrez and spoke to people in the capital building about my work sending nets. This past fall, I got the chance to meet actress Mandy Moore, who is also working hard sending nets to Africa. She was so nice and she decorated some bed net gift certificates for me too.
I am 10-years-old now and have raised over $180,000 for nets. Not long ago I received the hopeful news that the statistic every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria has changed to every 45 seconds. It made me feel really good to know that all my hard work is helping to prevent malaria. When I was at the Clinton Global Initiative I heard grown-ups saying that malaria could be gone by 2015. I think, if we all work really, really, really hard, malaria could be gone by 2014. What can you do? Visit www.Nothingbutnets.net to learn more about these great nets and how you can help. Anyone, especially a kid, can make an awesome difference in this world.
Thanks so much for sharing your story Katherine. Check back tomorrow, we’ll feature Dana Dziadul who campaigned for the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and make sure to let us know how you help your community at firstname.lastname@example.org!