Faiths Fighting Malaria Together

2009 SPU graduate becomes one of 12 Americans to receive a Faiths Act Fellowship

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2009 SPU graduate Amy NcNair teaching in Ghana during Summer 2008.

A bout of malaria can put things into perspective.


In Summer 2008, Amy McNair, then a senior political science student at Seattle Pacific University, planned to sightsee in Accra, Ghana. For the six previous weeks, she had served in Ethiopia and Ghana, teaching English and helping with community development through the nonprofit organization United Planet. This would be a well-deserved rest.


But when she lost her appetite, developed a fever, and felt waves of nausea, she suspected that in spite of her anti-malaria medication and nighttime mosquito net, she had the disease. A trip to a local clinic confirmed it. “It was the sickest I’ve ever felt,” says the 2009 graduate from Redlands, California.


Soon she was on the mend, but she knew she’d experienced firsthand the dilemma between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to medical treatment. “I was better in five days because I had the $10 for the pills,” she says. “But people die every day from malaria because they don’t have that $10.”


That winter, a friend alerted her to the Faiths Act Fellowship, a partnership between Interfaith Youth Core and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to help fight malaria through education and training. Intrigued, she applied and waited. “I just kept making the cuts,” she explains of the process that brought in nearly 1,000 applicants worldwide for 30 fellowships. In March, she was flown to Chicago for an in-person interview. Before long, she learned that she had been chosen for one of the 12 slots to be filled by Americans.


Today, McNair is setting her sights on July 31, when she begins the Faiths Act Fellowship. Once the fellowship starts, she’ll first train for two months in London, Africa, and Chicago. Then she will spend 10 months based in Chicago, where she will be paired with a Jewish fellowship recipient. They will both be work for a Muslim organization, speaking to groups and training them about malaria and the simple steps to decrease the risk and how they can make a difference.


What does she say to those who wonder how people from such diverse faiths can come together to tackle this issue? “Yes, I’m a Christian and love Jesus,” she says. “But that doesn’t limit the people I can love.”


In a world filled with headlines about adherents of different faiths hating — even, killing each other — the Faiths Act fellows such as McNair are set to demonstrate how faith communities can achieve great things working together to fight a too-often deadly disease.


By Hope McPherson (

Photo courtesy of Amy McNair


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