Nothing but Nets, mobilizing for malaria

Kira Levin ’17 brings the fight against malaria to campus

Kira Levin ’17 in Tanzania

To mark World Malaria Day, BrandeisNow interviewed Kira Levin ’17, the Nothing But Nets Malaria Fellow, who is working to raise malaria awareness on campus. 

Everyone told her she was crazy, she couldn’t do it, it was too far, too dangerous. But Kira Levin ’17 had made up her mind — she was going to Tanzania. 

Traveling to Africa had been a dream of Levin's since she was 14 years old. She was fascinated by the diversity of the continent’s culture, outraged by the injustices perpetrated against it and inspired by the resiliency of its people.  For two years, she researched volunteer organizations and worked to convinced her parents until, finally, they let her board a plane bound for Kilimanjaro International Airport. 

Her experience in east Africa profoundly influenced her life. 

“It changed my perspective,” she says. “Before going, my priorities were getting straight As but I realized that I wanted more. I didn’t just want to get into a good college, I wanted to learn how to help people get what they actually need.”

One of the things the people of Tanzania desperately needed, Levin discovered, was malaria prevention. One day, a couple weeks into her trip, Levin’s host brother causally mentioned that he had malaria — like it was the flu or a bad cold. Levin had been taking her anti-malaria pills and sleeping under a net every night but the Tanzanian people in her community didn’t have access to those precautions. 

That stuck with her. 

It stuck with her when she chose to enroll in Brandeis, when she attended the social justice pre-orientation and when she immersed herself in classes and clubs about social justice in Africa. 

So, when Levin heard about the new Nothing But Nets Malaria Fellowship, she knew she had to apply.  

Nothing But Nets is a United Nations grassroots campaign to raise awareness about malaria and provide insecticide-treated bed nets to communities in Africa. The fellowship, a partnership between the United Nations Foundation and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, aims to mobilize college students and train the next generation of activists. 

Last January, Levin became a member of the first class of fellows and brought the fight against malaria to Brandeis. 

The Brandeis Nothing but Nets campaign has so far raised more than $1,000, enough to purchase about 100 malaria nets for communities in Africa. They’ve met with Congresswoman Katherine Clark and representatives from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office. They’ve coordinated events to raise awareness across campus and produced a video that has received hundreds of views on YouTube. 

All in all, it's been a pretty successful first year at Brandeis but Levin isn’t about to rest.

“There is so much more I want to do next year,” she says, including throwing a benefit concert, securing more sponsorship and repeating their successful Froyo and Quesadilla fundraiser, which raised hundreds of dollars by delivering late night snacks around campus.

“Everyone on campus has been so supportive and so inclusive,” Levin says. “No one has ever told me, you’re just a freshman, you can’t do it. Everyone on campus is willing to give to help you reach your goals.”

Categories: International Affairs, Student Life

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