Net Gains 

At 71, Mary Curley uses the Internet to prevent the spread of malaria.

click to enlarge rgmission_mary_curley_200.jpg

With the help of her son and daughter, Richmonder Mary Curley launched a Web site that's turned a personal interest into a far-reaching plea. Her site, thebabynetwork.org, stems from her interest in Malaria No More, which raises money to provide bed nets that protect African families from the mosquitoes that carry the disease. So far, Curley's site has raised enough money to buy 300 nets.

What inspired you to start thebabynetwork.org?

I read an article in Time magazine in January 2007 about how mosquito nets could save the children in Africa. The group Malaria No More — they're trying to rally the whole world on this. It was talking about how we could save so many lives if we could give the gift of a bed net. I read the article and was floored that 3,000 babies a day die of malaria, so I went online to and found out that any individual could start a program to raise money for them. It was individuals, like a little girl with a lemonade stand. Babies and children are most susceptible to malaria. I thought, “We give to newborns, so why not make a donation to save another baby at the same time?”

How does your site work?

People can come on it and make a donation of $10 [the price of one insecticide-treated bed net that can cover one adult and two children] at any time. No money comes to me. It goes directly to Malaria No More. We launched it last summer and it was just creeping along and growing and we've made about $3,000 so far. A lot of people do it for grandchildren. Anyone can honor anyone through it. It's come from all over the country. I'm really thrilled when it comes from people I don't know. There's a page where they give their name and who they're giving it in honor of. Malaria No More keeps track and sends me a list. I send out a thank-you through that.

What of other factors influenced the launching of the site?

I'm a woman of faith and I just felt like this was something that was given to me and I just had a feeling this was something I could do. I really felt motivated by this tragedy. I'm 71 years old and I'm not an Internet expert, but my son is. He helped me set up my site. I wrote it, but he did the mechanics for me. And my daughter, who is a marketing person, helped me with the marketing.

How do you market it?

I've sent out e-mails. I also have some brochures. … I plan on speaking to a church group. I like showing people what the bed net looks like. It's inspiring when you see a tangible thing like that.

What would you say to people who are holding off on charitable donations because of today's economy?

If things are tight and people get too insulated then they tighten up and don't let things flow. If you give then more abundance comes to you. What I'd like to have happen is that this is just an ongoing thing and when people have a baby born they immediately think of giving a donation as a gift or in addition to a gift.


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