JCU students running to beat malaria

A group of James Cook University students will strap on their sneakers and run 270 km between them along a part of Victoria’s coastline to help raise money for malaria nets for impoverished African communities.

JCU Medical School
Study medicine at JCU Townsville

The JCU student charity group ‘Run to Better Days’ has set its sights on Melbourne and surrounds for its 2014 challenge, with this year’s running crew pounding the pavement of Port Phillip Bay.

The run involves 13 JCU students, who will also visit schools, universities, rotary clubs and communities in the coastal strip to share an important message: we can all do something about world poverty.

The students are from different JCU campuses, including Townsville and Cairns, as well as some from Mackay Hospital. There are second, fourth- and fifth-year JCU Medical School students, as well as a fourth-year engineering student.

All funds raised during the run will go to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF). The AMF provides malaria nets to communities most at risk of contracting malaria, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.

The nets are to use to protect people’s bedding and living areas from mosquitoes. While many Western homes have windows and sealed houses, much of sub-Saharan Africa has nothing but nets to rely on for protection from “mozzies.”

Run to Better Days co-coordinator Isabel Guthridge said an important aspect of the run was for participants to think about the charities they were supporting and why.

“Cost-effectiveness and transparency is important to the students on the run,” Ms Guthridge said. “The Against Malaria Foundation is one of the most cost-effective and transparent in the world and has been recommended by several international charity evaluators, including GiveWell and Giving What We Can.”

Each runner will complete two stints of 10 km each in a 24-hour period. It is similar to the Relay For Life events and will have runners doing 10 km before swapping to the next runner.

As in previous years, the runners will visit high schools along the route before and after the event to talk to students and teachers about what wealthier societies can do to reduce world poverty.

Team member Rosie Matthews said Run to Better Days had a large presence in Melbourne, making it the ideal location for this year’s run.

“We thought we would go to Melbourne and get the high school students involved,” Ms Matthews said. “There are a lot of great young minds down there we can open up to this message,” she said.

Ms Guthridge said it was often the words of a teacher that were most effective to inspire students.

“If a teacher says to the students after we’ve finished our spiel, ‘let’s think about this now’ it can be more powerful than hearing us alone,” Ms Guthridge said.

Matthew Paltridge, co-coordinator of the Run to Better Days, said the AMF recently announced they would be working with the Democratic Republic of Congo, distributing almost 700,000 nets to protect around 1.2 million people.

“It’s a chronically difficult country to run a charity in, so it’s really quite an achievement for them to have organised this,” Mr Paltridge said.

The run will be held from from July 19 to 20. School visits will take place in the weeks before and after the run.

While the exact route has not been decided, it is planned they will start on the eastern side of the bay (Point Nepean) and run anti-clockwise around the bay.

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