By Paula Schlueter Ross
“It is possible to make an impact as college students.”
That’s a lesson learned firsthand by Rebecca Monnier, who made the statement, and her friend Louisa Mehl. Together, the 21-year-old seniors at Concordia University, Nebraska, Seward, raised $50,605.14, which was matched by a contribution from a donor, for a total of $101,210.28 to the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI).
Monnier and Mehl visited Tanzania, East Africa, for 10 days in 2012 as part of an LMI-sponsored fellowship for college students interested in its quest to end malaria deaths in Africa. Their small group — which also included one student each from Concordia University, Irvine, Calif.; Concordia University Portland, Portland, Ore.; and Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind. — visited several communities and churches to see how LMI is working to end malaria deaths in Tanzania.
The fellowship experience — and matching funds — were provided by supporters of Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Baltimore, as a way to engage young adults in the work of the church, according to an LWR spokesman. LMI is a partnership of Lutheran World Relief and the LCMS.
In Africa, the students “visited clinics and spoke with people working in the churches … visited people’s houses to witness malaria bed nets in action and worshiped with fellow Christians under a tree for church on Sunday,” said Mehl, daughter of the Rev. Dr. John Mehl, longtime LCMS missionary and former regional director for Asia Pacific with the Synod’s Office of International Mission. “It was wonderful to see how the Lutheran Malaria Initiative works with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania to reach the most isolated people and communities who are affected by the disease.”
Monnier, who is Christian but not Lutheran, even got a taste of what it’s like to suffer from malaria: on Day 5 of the 10-day trek she developed a fever, body aches, nausea and vomiting — what she believes were side effects from the anti-malaria medication she was taking, which can mimic symptoms of the disease.
Although unexpected and physically draining, experiencing the weeklong illness was “really incredible,” she told Reporter, because she “got a different perspective on the disease and the challenges” it poses to those who have it. “It was a perfect situation in every way,” she said. “God knows what He is doing.”
Although they were enthusiastic about their fundraising task, neither Monnier nor Mehl ever thought they could raise as much money for LMI as they did; they launched their campaign with the same $25,000 goal as the other fellowship students. While in Tanzania, when the students were discussing ways to raise that amount on their campuses for LMI, Mehl said she and Monnier “looked at each other and wondered, ‘Since there are two of us, do we have to raise twice as much?’ We know that wasn’t the case, but we’re glad it worked out that way.”
So, how did the twosome raise more than $50,600 and counting? (Gifts were still coming in at this writing.)
Working with their school’s development office — and supported by dozens of students, staff and faculty — they met face-to-face with potential donors. They hosted fundraising events on campus that were promoted with signs, mosquito bed nets and chalk messages on windows and sidewalks. They sold “Swat Malaria” T-shirts.
Their first on-campus event in September 2012 — a “Fight the Night” campout that included music, movies and a contest to throw a pie at a professor — raised $5,000. Monnier said advertising for Fight the Night “was everywhere and everyone on campus knew the event was happening. It was the second most heavily attended event during the entire year! Which was so great! It also served as the ‘kick-starter’ for a year full of LMI.”
Close to another $5,000 was raised by students who asked their parents to make LMI donations.
Within a few months the dynamic duo had raised their first $25,000 and decided to keep going. It was, Monnier told the Lincoln Journal Star, “a cool testament to not underestimating college students.” (Click here to read the story, “Concordia students raise $50K to fight malaria.”)
In spring 2013 they moved their campaign off-campus, making presentations to local churches and at their home congregations. Word of the campaign spread, and more students got involved, helping Monnier and Mehl to reach $50,000 in contributions to LMI by August, a year after they started.
“The more money we raised, the people who were not initially interested became interested,” Mehl told the Journal Star.
Mehl also credits the LWR donors, “who graciously and ingeniously offered to give to the Lutheran Malaria Initiative by matching the funds raised by college students.
“By doing this, not only were they able to multiply the amount they were giving, they also empowered us as college students with the opportunity to look outside ourselves, create philanthropic habits that will last us a lifetime and make a bigger difference than we ever would have been able to make on our own.”
Adds Mehl: “Because of the [donors'] value for college-age students and their investment in us, the money we raised was doubled to total over $100,000. I see this as a wonderful attribute to how God is working in the lives of His people to do good in the world and build each other up.”
In addition to the $50,605.14 raised by Monnier and Mehl, students at the other three schools involved in the LWR fellowship brought in a total of $48,059.58, which will be matched by another $48,059.58 from the LWR donors to benefit the Lutheran Malaria Initiative.
Updated Jan. 28, 2014