April 24, 2009

Cover Africa Camps on Quad

Print More

Last night on the Arts Quad, Cover Africa threw an outdoor slumber party, a philanthropic event and an educational session all wrapped in one. The event, the third of its kind in the last two years, is meant to raise both money and awareness for those suffering from the malaria epidemic throughout Africa.
Malaria, which infects 250 million people each year, is predominantly a problem for countries in Africa. As the Cover Africa pamphlet explains, every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria in Africa; it is the number one cause of death among children under five years old.
Through a 28-hour campout on the Arts Quad filled with entertainment groups and pizza, Cover Africa is raising money for bed nets. Each bed net costs $10 and is used by Africans to ward off mosquitoes while they sleep. The bed nets, which are formally called long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets, prevent malaria not only by creating a physical barrier between the mosquito and the person, but also by killing the insect. Research has shown that if the bed nets were distributed in all areas of the epidemic, malaria would decrease by 60 percent.
At noon yesterday, Cover Africa set up a large tent in the Quad equipped with 50 rented sleeping bags. Members of Cover Africa and other participants planned to spend the night camped out. “I’m really pumped about it,” said John Lee ‘10, the director of service learning for Cover Africa. “What other group sleeps out on the Quad for 28 hours just to get out their cause?” he said.[img_assist|nid=37201|title=Slumber party|desc=Ellie McWhirter ’12, Kate Belser ’10, Kristie Resetco ’10 and Matt Ferrari ’11 camp out on the Arts Quad for Cover Africa’s biannual event.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]
Ellie Emery, Cover Africa’s advocacy director, explained that what is unique about the Cover Africa sleepover are the direct connections that Cornellians and Cover Africa members have to the purpose of the charity. For the past three winters Cover Africa has sent a group of 16 students to Humjibre, a rural village in Western Ghana to distribute the bed nets and help research and educate malaria in Ghana. Emery explained that because of the connection to the charity, the entire event becomes “much more personal.”
Lee, who just returned from Ghana a few months ago, will be running the next trip to Ghana this coming Winter.
“I think this fits right into service learning,” he said about last night’s event. “This is what we are supposed to do when we come back from [Ghana]. We’re powerful tools of advocacy.”
In Ghana, the students do a combination of research and education. According to Lee, through a survey of Ghanans, students discovered that most Ghanans understand the issues of malaria and are in great need of the bed nets. But they also found out that most Ghanans do not understand the real cause of malaria. He explained that one third of the people that Cornell students surveyed thought that malaria is caused by the sun. Therefore, educating locals about the causes of malaria is an important component of Cover Africa’s winter trip.
“It seemed strange to me that we eradicated malaria in America, yet we still have not eradicated it in Africa,” said Ellie McWhirter ‘12, the director of recruitment for Cover Africa. “I think that what we are doing here is amazing,” she added about the event.
Referencing the many sponsors, Dan Rubin ‘11 said, “It’s nice to see the support of the Cornell community. It’s a great cause.” Among the long list of sponsors were various local restaurants that donated free refreshments to the event.
The event attracted collaborators once people started setting up on the Arts Quad as the class of 2010 linked their pancake-making event with the sleepover to help attract more people. Additionally, throughout the evening various performance groups like Ring of Steal, Callbaxx and Phenomenon Step Team came to entertain attendees. Event attendees noted the improvement from last year’s sleepover.
Kate Beiser ‘10, Cover Africa’s director of public relations, spoke of eventually making the sleepover a part of Cornell culture. She hopes to soon see it on the list of top 100 things to do in Cornell. Cover Africa will continue until 4 p.m. today on the Arts Quad.