This year, World Malaria Day proved to reinforce for me that malaria is not just a problem in Africa and Nothing But Nets is not just a campaign limited to the United States. Malaria is a global issue and therefore a universal approach can and must be taken in order to provide a solution.
Over the last two and a half years as a spokesperson for Nothing But Nets, I have traveled to Africa, saw first-hand the devastating effects of malaria, came back to the U.S., shared passionately with you all what I saw, then went back to Africa as we delivered the nets you so generously provided. This year, my role as a spokesperson took a little detour as I found myself finishing up my basketball season overseas when April 25th – World Malaria Day – rolled around.
Embracing the opportunity to create awareness in Spain, I partnered with Canal Plus to produce a celebrity basketball game. In my career, I have played in many games and have had the honor of wearing jerseys representing numerous different teams, but when I looked down and saw the simple words, “Un partido Contra la Malaria” (a game against malaria), where before USA, Notre Dame, and San Antonio have been positioned across my chest, I was reminded that this is was not my normal basketball game. No, there was no preparation or scouting beforehand. In all actuality, our opponent (a tiny organism called plasmodium that causes malaria) would not be wearing a uniform or even participating in the game.
The unique thing about this game is that at the end of the day there is no winner or loser, because we are all on the same team. I am extremely grateful to the TV personalities, politicians, Olympians, teammates, coaches and legendary Spanish men’s basketball players for volunteering their time to participate in the game. I was encouraged by the response of the Spanish people, and their eagerness to join the Nothing But Nets campaign and our fight against malaria. This year, World Malaria Day gave me a new perspective. I learned that it does not matter where in the world you live – creating awareness invokes the same desire by people to help. The solution is the same regardless where you live: send a net, save a life . . . or as we say in Spain, “Envía una red. Salve una vida.”