At 3:30 a.m. last Wednesday, as he lay sleepless on an inflatable mattress set up on the United Methodist Church’s front lawn, Rick Norman realized that fact and, looking up through the leaky mesh above him, asked the rainy, raw heavens for a reprieve:
“I said, ‘God, can you maybe ease up a little bit? Does it really have to rain on me? Immediately it started raining harder.”
At that, he laughed heartily.
Despite a mostly sleepless, uncomfortable night, Mr. Norman accomplished what he’d set out to do last week: Raise awareness of the toll malaria still takes on millions worldwide. His sleep-out, using mosquito netting that malaria experts say can dramatically reduce cases of the deadly disease, turned a few heads and spread the word about simple solutions to what remains a global epidemic.
“I had people stop and ask, wondering what was going on,” he said later. “So that was good.”
The next step comes this Thursday, April 25, when the church’s Committee on Relief hosts an hour-long documentary about the disease and efforts to fight it. The documentary will be shown at the church (25 Church St.) and starts at 7 p.m. Guests will be able to donate to the cause while they are there, though the event is free.
Donations collected over the course of the night will be passed to the “Nothing But Nets” campaign, which purchases and distributes insecticide-treated bed nets throughout Africa.
A few facts about malaria, courtesy of Mr. Norman:
* It is spread from person to person by mosquitos.
* About 3.3 billion people, nearly half the world’s population, are at risk of catching the disease.
* A million people die every year from the disease. One in five childhood deaths in Africa is caused by malaria.
* Every 30 seconds, malaria kills a child.