Through Alex’s story, a lesson learned on malaria

This is a guest post from Chip Huber, author of The Zambia Project: The Story of Two World Turned Upside Down. In this piece, he writes about a recent trip to Zambia with a group of students, where he encountered the story of Alex.

On my recent trip to Zambia with students and staff from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich., we traveled to a rural community outside the capital city of Lusaka with staff members from World Vision Zambia. We drove on dirt roads and paths to a village where we first met some remarkable people who serve as volunteer caregivers for children and families in need in this community where life is challenging and access to education and health care and income is so, so limited…

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Chip and a few of the children from the village

We asked them specifically in a group of a dozen or so who has personally or had an immediate family member struggle with malaria. They just laughed at my question as each of them put their hand up immediately. Malaria is the No. 1 taker of life in sub-Saharan Africa and obviously a huge concern for those who live in this part of the world.

We then visited some families in their small homes who had unfortunately been touched deeply by malaria. One father and mother told us their story of how their 15-month-old boy, Alex, suddenly spiked a fever, and because they are a 10-mile walk from the nearest health clinic, it was a huge undertaking to get their child to receive medical care. The family was delayed because of a flooded river in their path, making it too late to get the medications available to save their child.

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Alex’s family
We found ourselves speechless over a mother and father’s sorrow as we sat outside their hut, listening to how their son died from a mosquito bite. Finally one of our team members softly whispered how sorry we were and I asked if we could pray for them, a prayer for comfort only our God can somehow provide…

I then asked if the rest of the their six children had bed nets to sleep under, as treated bed nets can protect people from contracting malaria. While conversing with this family we saw first-hand why the prevention of malaria is so important. We believe a vision has been laid on our hearts and now we see an opportunity to partner with our friends at World Vision to change the lives of families through the power of the game of soccer we love just like our Zambian friends. We believe even more deeply after this trip and these moments with Alex’s family that we will and must do far more than we have done before to provide nets for families like the one we met in Africa.

Marking this trip as my sixth visit to Zambia, this nation of beautiful people has become my second home. I am always overwhelmed by the stories of need and I have learned that education, health care, and water can and do change the lives of people and communities in remarkable ways. I have watched a village be transformed through the creative work and commitment of a community of high school students who fell in love with the children of Africa.

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Chip with college students and children from the village.

This is why I have no doubt that the college students I traveled with will help do their part to end the devastating impact of malaria in the family we met and thousands of other families as we seek to provide 5,000 new bed nets in 2012. We can literally change one life through a soccer game admission and after what we saw in Zambia we truly have no other choice but to respond and invite others to do the same; it’s the least we can do as we think about Alex…

Photo credit: Alyssa Bowerman

Chip Huber is Dean of Student Engagement at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. His new book, THE ZAMBIA PROJECT: The Story of Two Worlds Turned Upside Down tells the story of an eight year global project and friendship that developed between Wheaton Academy in West Chicago, IL and Kakolo Village, Zambia in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic where students raised almost three-quarters of a million dollars to help bring sustainable change. You can find out more information and order a copy at the book’s website at: www.zambiaprojectbook.com.