High schooler raises money to fight malaria

Garrett Quinn, along with his sister Caitlin and mother Ginger, spent seven days in Rwanda in August, visiting a hospital, school, orphanage and micro-loan bank.
Garrett Quinn, along with his sister Caitlin and mother Ginger, spent seven days in Rwanda in August, visiting a hospital, school, orphanage and micro-loan bank.

This fall Garrett Quinn started his senior year at Catholic High School in Little Rock. But at the same time he launched a campaign to help prevent malaria-related deaths in Africa.
Last August Quinn, a member of Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock, had the opportunity to travel with his mother and sister to Rwanda in Africa.
“Our old neighbors (Mary and Dabbs Cavin) moved there for two years and started a bank to give loans to the poor,” Quinn said. His mother decided to take Garrett and one of his sisters, Caitlin, to stay with the Cavins for a week. His father Brian and sister Virginia stayed in Little Rock.
“It was more overwhelming than anything else. I knew Rwanda was a third- world country, but it (the poverty) is completely different,” he said.
“My mom and I wanted to do something to help since we had the opportunity to get over there,” he said.
While they were in Rwanda, they visited an orphanage, and Quinn, a member of his school’s varsity basketball team, noticed none of the basketball goals had nets. He considered the idea of providing basketball nets, but then his mother suggested bed nets instead.
During the visit their hosts insisted Quinn and his family sleep under long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, or LLINs. These nets are used to protect people from mosquitoes carrying malaria, a leading cause of illness and death in Rwanda.
The village they visited had 26,000 people and only one doctor. “If you get malaria, it’s tough to get care,” Quinn said.
When the Quinns returned to Little Rock, they began researching charitable organizations working in Africa.
“It’s been a family program in a way,” Ginger Quinn said. “I thought it was the best way to integrate what we’ve seen.”
They decided to work with Malaria No More, a foundation that buys and distributes insecticide-treated bed nets in Africa. The organization was founded in December 2006 after a White House Summit on Malaria. According to Malaria No More’s Web site, 90 percent of malaria-related deaths occur in Africa.
“The malaria problem was solved in the U.S. 50 years ago,” said John Logsdon, the grass roots initiatives coordinator for Malaria No More. “We know what causes it, and we’re very focused on getting the U.S. public engaged.”
In September Quinn sent out 180 letters explaining his campaign, which he called “Nothin’ But Net,” to friends and family. Within months he received about $8,000 in donations. Each $10 donation buys and distributes one net, along with community education, so through his effort, the foundation was able to provide 800 nets. Each net will cover two or three people.
Quinn’s story was featured on iwillAfrica, a Web site run by Malaria No More that focuses on children and teens working for this cause.
“What was unique about Garrett Quinn’s story was he had gone to Africa,” Logsdon said. “His host family was insistent that he sleep under a mosquito net. It’s rare to find someone who has firsthand experience.”
Checks made out to Malaria No More can be mailed to Garrett Quinn, 5418 Sherwood Road, Little Rock, AR 72207.

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