In 2010, in an attempt to raise awareness and curb the spread of malaria, UAM joined forces with the Relate Trust, a South African not-for-profit social enterprise that creates and sells beaded cause bracelets. They developed a signature UAM supporters’ bracelet, which has become a globally recognised symbol of the fight against malaria: close to 500 000 bracelets have been sold to raise funds for malaria education and prevention in sub-Saharan Africa.
While serving their colourful purpose by spreading the word about malaria, the bracelets also combat poverty. Through Relate’s efforts, the beading of cause bracelets develops skills, creates employment and generates income for the people who make them. Relate’s beaders include senior citizens with orphaned grandchildren in their care, unemployed young adults, the mentally and physically challenged, and refugees seeking asylum in South Africa. Social entrepreneur and Relate co-founder Lauren Gillis says Relate bracelets ‘do more than act as a fundraising tool … they also create a connection with the frail hands of a vulnerable senior, or the eager hands of an unemployed young person who proudly created the bracelet. In the process they are also upskilled and receive earnings.’
Outdoor industry leaders Cape Union Mart (stockists of United Against Malaria bracelets) sponsored Kingsley’s return to South Africa specifically for World Malaria Day, affording the modern-day explorer and humanitarian the opportunity to share his passion for malaria prevention and education.
We recently met up with Kingsley, affectionately known in several African countries as ‘Papa King’. As we observed the passion in his face and the love in his eyes, it became very clear to us why this inspiring man continues to do what he does. ‘The turning point, for me, came when someone died in one of our vehicles as a result of severe malaria. I have had it, members of my family have had it, and it’s a hard, often painful experience – one that I do my very best to try and avoid by taking the correct preventative medication when travelling into infected areas.’
When asked what made him return to these areas, Kingsley explained that it was the cause that kept him going. ‘I feel a sense of purpose when we’re out in the field; people show you so much gratitude, it makes you feel quite special. I experience a sense of purpose when we travel into rural areas with hopes of distributing mozzie nets to pregnant mums with babies and others who are in dire need of assistance. It can be hard; there are often throngs of people in conditions that are relentless and unforgiving, but when we get to watch young kids enjoying an organised soccer game, learning about the importance of being part of team, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Those moments are the highlight for me.’
Using his current year-long Great Rift Valley expedition as a platform to distribute life-saving mosquito nets, in the hope of reducing malaria-related deaths to zero, Kingsley and his team are on a constant mission to make a difference in the prevention of this debilitating disease.