You know what gives the ACT:S Team goosebumps?
Hearing about the INCREDIBLE things you all are doing. Seriously, so many of you are making real change in creative and innovative ways in your communities. We want to share with you one story that just gives us the chills—our friend Chip Huber has mobilized student athletes at Cornerstone University to raise huge amounts of money for malaria nets. Through an exciting campus-wide campaign, these athletes have given life-saving protection to thousands of children and families in sub-Saharan Africa.
Here’s their story, as told by Chip…
This past May, several members of the Cornerstone University men’s and women’s soccer teams spent 2 weeks in Zambia.
They built relationships with people in communities deeply affected by extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS, and found a remarkable common bond in the game of soccer loved by the people of Zambia and CU athletes and coaches. Matches on dirt fields were filled with energy, large crowds, and a joy found in the “beautiful game” loved by billions of people across the globe.
The group that traveled to Zambia also saw first hand the impact of malaria on families in village communities. One mother shared her story of having her 15 month old son Alex die in her arms as they walked over 20 miles trying to get him to a rural health center to get the medicines needed to help him recover from the impact of a mosquito bite that had infected him with a deadly disease. As they met these families and heard local caregivers talk about the need and impact of bed nets that keep malaria from affecting families, they knew that they needed to help respond to one of the world’s great health concerns.
On their final night in Zambia, the students talked about making this year’s Night of Nets events on campus bigger than ever at Cornerstone. In the past, men’s and women’s soccer teams have highlighted the issue of malaria at soccer games and invited fans who attended to donate their $6 admission fee to fund a bed net for a family on the other side of the world through a partnership with World Vision. In the past two years, the event provided over 1500 bed nets..
However, this year’s Night of Nets events grew significantly because the issue had now become personal to players who had seen first-hand what malaria does to the lives of their friends in Africa. Three athletic events in one week on campus were now part of the Night of Nets campaign, featuring the men’s soccer team, women’s soccer team, and women’s volleyball team. Sports teams partnered with a student organization on campus that cares about global poverty and justice issues to promote these matches and the opportunity to change lives through a simple $6 gift. Videos were made, flyers were created, and over 400 students, staff, and families purchased Night of Nets shirts that each provided a bed net through their purchase. Well over half of our student body was involved in responding to a global issue that many of them have never experienced personally before.
The highlight of the week was a moment you’d think only happens on the big screens– at the men’s soccer match against conference and cross-town rival Aquinas,the Golden Eagles scored a golden goal in OT before a record crowd under the newly installed lights on their home field. Hundreds of students poured onto the field as the game ended, and hundreds more donated the resources that will save the lives of a future generation of Africans. It truly was a night where student athletes helped use the platform of athletics to invite their friends and campus community to help end malaria!
All in all, the Night of Nets campaign at CU raised over $25,000 to purchase more than 4000 bed nets for families in sub-Saharan Africa. Students from inside and outside the athletic community will head back to Zambia in May 2013 to play soccer with friends in the African dirt and once again help deliver the nets and meet the children and families impacted by malaria. The campus is already looking forward to Night of Nets 2013!
Chip Huber is the Dean of Student Engagement, the Men’s Soccer Assistant Coach, and the ACT:S Student Organization Advisor at Cornerstone University. He’s also the author of The Zambia Project.