This summer I’m in DC interning with the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets team, a unique internship that’s more than just another professional experience. Working with Nothing But Nets enables me to embody a core belief of my Jewish faith: helping those in need. Through Nothing But Nets, I’m supporting the fight against malaria. What’s more, I’m helping to strengthen the partnership between Nothing But Nets and the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), allowing me to link familiar values to life-saving work. And I’m doing all of this through the Machon Kaplan Program of the Religious Action Center, the Reform movement’s social justice hub here in Washington, DC.
Nothing But Nets and the URJ share guiding principles: bikur cholim, caring for the sick; pikuach nefesh, saving lives; and gemulit chasidim, deeds of loving kindness. Embodying these values, URJ congregations nationwide have raised thousands of dollars to send life-saving bed nets through Nothing But Nets. In 2009 alone, the URJ raised more than half a million dollars to help Nothing But Nets fight malaria.
Earlier this month, World Refugee Day highlighted these shared values of caring for the sick and saving lives: the international community recognized the courage and determination of refugees who flee their homes seeking safety and a better life. A single day a year is designated to honor refugees—yet families struggle every day to survive.
The Nothing But Nets team witnessed this hardship first-hand during a trip to distribute bed nets at Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, near the South Sudan border. With about 95,000 residents, Kakuma is over capacity. More people arrive daily, escaping violence along the border of Sudan and South Sudan. They also face the threat of malaria, a disease spread by a single mosquito bite. These refugees need all the help we can give.
That’s why I believe it’s not enough to simply acknowledge the sacrifices of refugees on World Refugee Day. We must take action to save lives, spread the word about Nothing But Nets and the URJ, and encourage people to help end this preventable disease.
My faith has taught me that “whoever saves a life saves the entire world” (Sanhedrin 4:9). Through the partnership of Nothing But Nets, the URJ, and others, together we can heal the world.