While shouting phrases like “Malaria sucks!” the UCSB men and women’s swim teams took to the Rec Cen pool on Saturday, swimming a combined 5,000 meters as part of a fundraiser aimed at purchasing anti-malarial mosquito netting for children.
The Gauchos raised a cumulative $4,071 for World Swim Against Malaria, a registered nonprofit charity organization, through donations made by friends, family and philanthropists. The money generated by the event will provide children in third-world countries around the globe with 814 mosquito nets[, capable of protecting up to 1,628 children from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, according to the WSAM Web site, www.WorldSwimAgainstMalaria.com.
Gaucho swimmer and first-year communication major Dan Morris said the WSAM event was a gratifying and enjoyable experience.
“It feels really good to be doing this,” Morris said. “Swimming is tough, but to be able to give back like we are makes it so much more worthwhile. The WSAM is also a great team-building exercise because we try to mix it up and make it a little more fun than a regular practice.”
Assistant women’s swimming coach Naya Higashijima said the pressing danger of the disease drove the team to participate in for the WSAM event.
“One of our swimmers found that there are more kids dying from malaria than AIDS,” Higashijima said. “That kind of opened our eyes and made us really get into the swim against malaria.”
According to the Web site, WSAM was started as a trust fund in 2003 in London to raise money for a young third-degree burn victim. Since then, WSAM began to generate sizeable donations, which are handled by the Against Malaria Foundation, a global nonprofit based in the United Kingdom. The organization said 100 percent of donations will go toward the purchase of mosquito nets to ward off malaria transmission.
Additionally, Higashijima said that while this was the team’s first year participating in the event, the Gauchos have a history of contributing to the community.
“In the past we’ve done Splash Olympics with the Devereux School,” she said. “We used to hold swim classes to teach children with special needs how to swim. Now we help out kids from the Special Olympics – we go downtown to Los Banos on the weekends to teach them how to swim better. These are all great things that our swim teams are doing, and the swim against malaria is another great cause.”