“When Allyson Brown first learned about malaria as a high school junior, she was shocked to learn that the mosquito-borne disease still claims the life of a child every 30 seconds, making it the number one threat to children in Africa. The impact of the disease was even harder for Brown to comprehend, in light of the fact that malaria is entirely preventable and treatable using tools as simple as a protective bed net. In the face of such a devastating global killer, though, Brown found herself wondering, 'what can one person do?' She answered her own question one-year later by launching Stayin' Alive, and turning her high school Valentine's Day dance into a fundraising event for life-saving bed nets. ‘I believe that by getting knowledge out to the students about malaria, and raising money for bed nets in a fun, engaging way, students will want to help out and feel part of something bigger than themselves,’ said Brown. Students responded with an overwhelming show of support for the program, raising $3,600 at her high school alone.”
- Amnesty International USA Newsletter, September 2007
Now, with the support of Malaria No More, a non-profit aiming to end malaria-related deaths worldwide, the Stayin’ Alive campaign is hoping to turn school dances around the country into major fundraising events for malaria prevention efforts.
Allyson Brown, 17, who helped organized the first Stayin’ Alive dance at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, Florida, was inspired to plan the event after watching an episode of the Oprah show on the Red campaign. “I was trying to think of a neat fundraiser,” says Brown, when she heard about Malaria No More. The student government and parent volunteers linked up with the organization to give their school dance a social purpose.
“It was really nice, because Malaria No More kind of took charge of the dance,” says Brown, who is also president of the student government at Holy Trinity. “Once the kids found out what cause it was going to and how their money was going to be used, they really supported it, because they realized their ten dollars for the dance can actually go to save a live and doesn’t just go to some anonymous foundation.”
Over the next three years, the Stayin’ Alive campaign will attempt to replicate the event at Holy Trinity, recruiting some 10,000 high schools nationwide to participate in fundraisers to stop malaria. The idea behind Stayin’ Alive in some respects follows a model forged by Red and other similar campaigns—taking something people are going to do or pay money for anyway, and turning it into an opportunity to donate to charitable causes and raise awareness about social injustices.
In this case, the goal is to “create broader awareness about malaria among high school students and encourage participating schools to raise at least $1,000 from dance proceeds to support malaria control,” according to Malaria No More. So far, it appears that the organization’s goal is working. “It definitely opened my eyes,” says Brown. “Before, when we saw stuff about Africa, all the kids felt like, ‘what can my money do?’ It’s definitely shown me that one person can make a difference.”
have a story for wkcd?
Want to bring public attention
to your work? WKCD invites
submissions from youth and
“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”
– Deborah Meier, educator