Friday, July 30, 2010

A Global Connection: Vermont and Sierra Leone

Established in 2009 by Burr and Burton Academy students Richard Siu, Michaela Madden, and myself, Luke Drabyn, Burr and Burton Academy's Global Minimum Initiative (henceforth known as BGMI) successfully fund raised over $2,000 for insecticide-treated nets for Harvard grad. David Sengeh and Princeton senior Mathias Esmann's Global Minimum (GMin) NGO.

Global Minimum efforts reside in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where members of the NGO distribute these insecticide-treated nets to local villagers in the southern region of the country -- namely, the Malen Chiefdom (efforts as of current, however, have expanded into a second chiefdom). Taking crucial data such as the number of pregnant women and number of children under five years old, GMin effectively distributes the nets to each household in a given village, covering each sleeping space as needed. For more info on GMin or the most recent 2010 distribution, visit the NGO's website.

Back to Burr and Burton's efforts. How did BGMI raise this money, exactly? Comprised of humanitarian-conscious student-leaders, BGMI members visited elementary and high schools in Manchester, Vermont, and made presentations concerning leadership, Global Minimum, and why even the smallest efforts can help any cause. The learning was mutual: BGMI members got a chance to improve their public speaking skills and presentation prowess, while students at these elementary and middle schools were educated on various issues that we thought we important to comprehend.

This photo was taken at Manchester Elementary Middle School, located in the center of the town of Manchester, Vermont. We began our presentation by addressing both students 5th-8th grade and faculty; in total, there were probably 100-200 people. However, that's a rough approximation. We'd start by showing a Youtube video on World Malaria Day. Here's the link to that video. It's relatively short and really highlights how easily efforts to afford these nets for all of Africa can be. One of said highlights: the Pentagon gets a daily budget of approximately $1.5 billion -- that's enough money to cover every sleeping space in Africa for five years; perhaps it's time to rethink how we spend our money, no? Should these great sums of money go towards war, or for nets in Africa towards families who live on literally less than a dollar a day? That said, it is also important to recognize that the answer isn't as black-and-white as we think it is. We need answers; we need solutions to how to effectively allocate funds for the general welfare of these poor, often uneducated people who have nothing.

Manchester Elementary School raised over $600 -- roughly 120 nets -- for Global Minimum. I personally helped with GMin's 2010 distribution in 2010 in Sierra Leone and made sure I saw exactly how these donated nets were being distributed. The answer: effectively, by leaders who care and are diligent in the way they work. So Manchester Elementary School -- thank you, your contribution helped over 250 men, women, and children protect themselves against malaria.

Additionally, we'd like to thank Maple Street School -- also located in Manchester, Vermont, for allowing us to present to their 5th-8th grade students. Subsequent to our presentation there, we actually held a dance in MSS's gym for the students from the surrounding schools; that fundraiser contributed nearly $250 to Global Minimum. Students and faculty of MSS: thank you, your generous efforts have done great things for those in Africa.

Another great money-maker: these "BGMI/GMIN" silicone bracelets, purchased from We purchased them in bulk and sold them at the MSS dance. We also sold them around campus at BBA, our high school. $5 apiece meant that one purchased bracelet meant one mosquito net for a villager in Sierra Leone. We made great bank -- more than $300 worth -- with the selling of these bracelets. Moreover, what's interesting is that I brought a whole bunch of these with me to Sierra Leone, and all 10-15 Global Minimum members that helped with the distribution wore one. They've seemed to become the official GMin wristband. Very cool.

Next year at BBA we hope to set up a program through which students who apply to BGMI have the opportunity to take a trip to Sierra Leone each summer and -- like me -- become inspired by the work being done in the country. If successful, it will be an unparalleled opportunity for leadership experience. However, as GMin says, it's by no means a "self-help trip to Africa." It's a grueling trip, with a copious amount of arduous work. So therefore, more information on the trip will be available in the near future. If you're interested in joining the service-learning group BGMI, don't hesitate to contact me. My email is I check it constantly.

Comments, questions and concerns are encouraged and welcomed. More info on the 2010 distribution will come soon -- pictures, videos, and more! Until then...