Groups join forces to combat malaria



Julie Balzarini

Campus Ministry, in conjunction with Student Government Association and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, presented the seventh annual World Religions Day throughout campus last Wednesday. The focus of this year’s event was on the inter-faith approach to end malaria by 2015. 

Begun as a response to the tragedy of 9/11, the event gives students the opportunity to learn more about different traditions from the people who practice them, according to Kathy Overturf, associate director of Campus Ministry and coordinator of World Religions Day. 

“The major world religions have compassion as a tenant of faith and outreach to the poor as central,” Overturf said. She agrees with Blair’s comment that “faith motivates billions of believers around the world in their thoughts,words and actions.”

As part of World Religions Day, SGA joined Campus Ministry’s efforts by raising $1,500 for Nothing But Nets, a global, grassroots campaign created by the U.N. Foundation in 2006 to prevent malaria. 

SGA‘s involvement with this year’s event developed over the summer, growing out of a conversation between Overturf and Student Body President Bridget Halligan.

Specifically, Halligan says she was inspired by the efforts of Katherine Commale, a nine-year-old from Downington, Pa., who had become involved with Nothing But Nets. As such, Commale raised over $150,000.

SGA donated the funds raised to Nothing But Nets through Commale, presenting a $1,500 check to her on campus last Wednesday. SGA also gave her a bracelet with the quote they serve by: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Malaria is a leading killer of children in Africa, but it can be prevented by spraying insecticides indoors or by sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets, according to

A $10 donation provides an insecticide-treated bed net that can prevent the disease. The nets work by creating a barrier against disease-carrying mosquitoes that bite at night, and one net can protect a family of four for four to five years. 

The insecticide woven into the nets makes entire communities safer by killing mosquitoes so they cannot proceed to bite others who may not be protected by a net, according to

SGA raised the funds by selling bracelets for $3. The bracelets were made of tulle, to represent the nets they were raising money to provide. Collections at three masses through Campus Ministry also contributed to the cause. 

World Religions Day kicked off with a fair at the Oreo, where representatives from various faiths both on- and off-campus held information tables. 

In all, over 30 organizations were represented. The student Buddhist group, student represetntatives from Hinduism, Christian fellowship groups and the Gospel Choir all hosted tables, as well as local churches and inter-faith centers.

“All different governments across the world and all different religions across the world are coming together to eradicate malaria,” Halligan said. “That’s why SGA felt inclined to take up this cause with them.”

Following the fair, two Tony Blair Faith Foundation fellows, Benjamin Bechtolsheim and Randa Kuziez, as well as local pastor Joseph DiPaolo, of Wayne United Methodist Church, spoke in Falvey Lounge on the importance of a multi-faith approach to the eradication of Malaria. 

“These are issues that affect people across faith lines and issues that affect people around the globe,” said Bechtolsheim, who currently works for the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty, about issues of disease and poverty. ” These issues are too large for any single organization, country, or faith community to handle alone, so we have found that multi-faith collaboration is an effective and powerful way to combat poverty and disease.”

 The event culminated with presentations in Connelly Cinema by Dr. Norman Dollahon, associate professor of biology who spoke on the parasitology of malaria, and Professor Kim Connolly, director of the Center for Global and Public Health, who discussed the challenges of eradicating the disease. 

For Overturf, Bechtolsheim and Halligan, the event represented a success on the part of raising awareness for both malaria as a global health issue and the importance of a multi-faith approach to combating it abroad. 

“I was impressed by the caliber of the people we met at Villanova, by the interest of the students with whom we spoke, and that Villanova chose to place focus on these important issues,” Bechtolsheim said.

For Halligan, the opportunity for SGA to collaborate with Campus Ministry was a rewarding one.

“[Student Body Vice President] Allison and I have a few personal goals,” Halligan said. “Creating an atmosphere where people from different cultures, backgrounds, and systems of faith come together is one closest to my heart. Kathy and World Religions Day provided us with this opportunity.”

Overturf is already in the planning stages for next year’s World Religions Day, which will be the tenth anniversary of the event. 

Her goals are to work with the Faith and Learning Center here on campus, and to broaden the event’s scope as far as the theme is concerned.

 This year’s theme concentrated on how faiths from around the globe work together to eradicate malaria, a UN millennium goal. The idea for working with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation was conceived last spring, according to Overturf.