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By Jessie Stone. Learn more about Jessie.

July 6, 2006

– May, June, and July 2006.

Its hard to believe we are into our 7th month of 2006. I love the summer and am really looking forward to our upcoming inner city kids kayaking camp beginning on July 21st in New York City. This will be our 5th year of doing the camp with kids from the Bronx and Harlem, and it is always great fun for the kids and instructors alike. Its also wonderful to meet new faces and see the returning students. But before I get ahead of myself here, let me fill you in on what’s been going on in deepest darkest Uganda!! We have been busy selling mozzie nets and educating lots of Ugandans about Malaria. Our total nets sold is now up to 11,000 and the demand appears to be insatiable. My last trip was very productive but as always too short. This time we had planned 4 Malaria education and prevention sessions in rural villages anywhere from 2hours away from our base in Bujagali Falls to 15 minutes away, by car that is!

We were collaborating with the Mulago Hospital/ UCSF Malaria research program run by Dr. Sarah Staedke who is a Malaria rock star. She has published some of the most important research on Malaria treatment to date and she also happens to be a kayaker! She learned on the Nile. Our link with her project will help them connect with the rural Ugandans that we see everyday. We had a very busy 3 days and accomplished a lot. We sold 700 hundred mozzie nets in three days and the most common question we were asked was "When are you coming back with more nets??" Of course that makes me very happy because I know we are directly addressing a real need and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

In addition, I attended a very interesting Malaria conference in Kampala (Uganda’s capital) on Malaria in Uganda. I learned so much about what is being done now and what can be done and what is not being done to control Malaria in Uganda. What continues to amaze me is how little education is talked about at these conferences. It seems so obvious to me because its what I do everyday, but many of the inteligencia overlook it or perhaps take it for granted that People understand the basics of Malaria, like how they get it and how they can protect themeselves, but i am here to tell you and I hope Bill Gates is listening or reading this somehow, that most Ugandans DO NOT know how they get Malaria so they do not know why or how to use a mosquito net! This is no joke. However, I am really encouraged because we have a model that works and I believe we can expand the model and get nets and education to those Ugandans who need them. It may take a while but I believe we can do it. Ok can you tell I think about this a lot?

The third arm of our program, the Soft Power Health Clinic, is doing very well. Since our opening in January of this year in the Kyabirwa village next to Bujalglai Falls, we have seen a huge rise in patient visits to the clinic and we continue to offer more services to the rural community such as vaccinations and family planning. We see an average of 20 patient a day and the numbers are on the rise. We have volunteers working with our local staff of 1 doctor, 2 nurses, and 2 laboratory technicians. Malaria is the most common disease we see accounting for about 80% of visits to the clinic. We also see a lot of upper respiratory tract infections and diarrhea. The local community seems to be very greatful for our help and we have been asked to build clinics in several other villages around the district.

Which brings me to the next thing, keeping the balance in life- Kayaking! I had the good fortune to compete in Vail, Lyon, and Bremgarten and attend the Telluride Mountain Film Festival where my friend Polly Green was premiering her film Nomads. If you are interested in checking out the film, there are going to be more screenings of it and it is for sale on the Jackson Kayak website. It was also really nice to spend some time traveling and paddling with the Jacksons and the Lunts. I felt like I was on summer vacation!

After Telluride, I went to Vail, CO in early June to compete and see if I had a shot at winning the Everest Award in kayaking. Although I did not win the Everest Award for kayaking, I took third in the Big Trick Competition. Then, I went to the Lyon "Hawai Sur Rhone" Festival run by my friend Toon from Kayak Session magazine which was great fun and wonderful to be in Europe for Spring water. The wave was great and I did feel like I was back on the big water of the Nile. I finished the competition tour with a trip to The Quicksilver Waves and Wheels Festival in Bremgarten, Switzerland where I finished fourth in the Boater Cross, a new and very fun event for me. In the finals, where 4 paddlers start at the same time off a ramp into the river, I had a laugh to myself because there I was the oldest woman competitor at 38 competing against my fellow Nomad and youngest pro woman paddler at 16, Emily. Kayaking is such a fabulous sport for that reason, I tell you and I hope I get to do it as long as I can. All of this was great, and I was also lucky enough to paddle almost everyday that I was back in Uganda too! Carving out the time to kayak really energizes me for everything else I do and continues to make me realize how lucky I am everyday!