Ker & Downey’s Amy Willis traveled to Uganda on the Nets for Africa 2018 trip. Nets for Africa is Ker & Downey’s year-round philanthropy project. With your help, we provide insecticide-treated mosquito nets to protect against malaria and medical visits to African villages most in need. Photos by Nathalie Bonnete.
This year I acquired a new role at Ker & Downey as Philanthropy Manager. Then I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda to participate in our annual Nets for Africa philanthropy trip. It was my first trip to East Africa, my first experience doing mission work, and my first time being on the front lines witnessing extreme poverty for myself. As Ker & Downey’s Graphic Designer, I have seen images and designed campaigns for Nets for Africa for years. But this year, I was there, shaking the hands of the recipients of our mission and hearing their stories while looking into their eyes. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced and often felt overwhelmed by the struggles and pain that these communities live with. Needless to say, it was emotional and exhausting, but an incredibly rewarding six days.
Every year for the past 10 years, Ker & Downey has kept Nets for Africa thriving with the help of a local church and long-time in-country contacts in Uganda. All work tirelessly to make each trip a success. I had no idea what went into making something like this run smoothly. The organization and efficiency of this operation was impressive. From the doctors and nurses, volunteers and translators, the churches who allowed us their space, and the locals who were extremely patient and cooperative, the week couldn’t have gone better.
This year we went to a different area of Uganda than we have in years past, to a town called Lira. This part of the country has never received a medical mission and many people there have never seen a doctor. We spent a total of six days around this area, going to three different villages, spending two days in each village. Each day we’d set up eight doctor stations, a dentist station, a reading glasses station, an HIV testing area, a mobile bus to pick up prescribed medications, and a nets station, where they picked up treated mosquito nets as they left. We purchased 90% of our supplies in Uganda to help contribute to the local economy.
The World Health Organization reports a 21% decrease in malaria worldwide with a decrease deaths from the disease. Yet, malaria is still a major threat in Uganda, and Africa in general. Sub-Saharan Africa carries the largest share of the world’s burden with an estimated one million people dying from malaria last year. Pregnant women and children are the main victims. Insecticide-treated nets are a practical way to protect from malaria. They last up to three years and can cover up to four children. Sleeping under a treated net is important as the parasites found in mosquitoes that cause malaria are active from dusk to dawn.
During our Nets for Africa 2018 trip we gave out 6,000 nets. Over 9,000 people saw a doctor and many received dental treatment. We tested over 500 people for HIV and other life-threatening diseases, and sent one person with a serious condition to have surgery. People received reading glasses to improve their daily lives. Malaria treatment was in abundance. We saw plenty of cases of malaria, sickle cell anemia and epilepsy in babies and small children, and tuberculosis in the elderly. While it is clear there are many massive problems that plague Uganda, it is imperative to us at Ker & Downey to help. We will continue to contribute to this part of the world that is so dear to us.
Africa is where our company was born and is a place that enriches our lives in so many ways. It holds the biggest space in our hearts as a company, and as a first timer, I can say that it now holds a special place in my heart as well. Taking time to leave the comforts of the United States to spend time with the people of Uganda while contributing in a small way has changed me. I am forever grateful for the opportunity.
At one point, I stopped to look around and thought to myself, “This was all made possible by people they don’t even know all the way in the United States.” Thank you to all that donated this year. Here are some of the lives you impacted. Their faces say it all.
Nets for Africa takes donations year-round. As soon as one trip is finished, we immediately start raising money for the next. We will do this for as long as we can and rely on the generosity of donors to fund the work we do. For every donation received, Ker & Downey matches the donation. $7 purchases one net and can save up to four lives. If you have been touched by the magic of Africa in some way, or simply want to do good in the world, please consider helping us make more of an impact next year.
Help us stop the sting of mosquito bites by donating below. Our goal is to give out 15,000 nets in 2019, which is over twice what handed out this year. I believe our goal is within reach. For every net purchased, Ker & Downey will match it. Together as a community of conscious world travelers, it is important to be part of the solution. We can do more than we ever thought possible.