Rick Mercer visits R.A. Riddell Elementary
By Andres Billiald, CBC News
Rick Mercer was in Hamilton on Wednesday (March 22) to visit R.A. Riddell elementary school, whose students raised more than $16,355 for the Spread the Net Student Challenge to help end preventable malaria deaths in Africa.
This year, more than 50 schools raised nearly $150,000 that will provide life-saving bed nets that prevent malaria-infected mosquitoes from biting children and their families.
‘It all had to do with spirit’
Mercer is co-founder of Spread the Net.
Mercer and Plan International normally visit the top three schools that raised the most money. However, this year Spread the Net decided to pay an extra visit to R. A. Riddell, whose student’s enthusiasm was second-to-none according to Mercer.
“It all had to do with spirit, I mean they did raise an awful lot of money…but that’s not why we went [to Riddell]. We went because of their spirit, the fact that it was a yearlong endeavor and because there was so many different events.”
Mercer said the real champions of Spread the Net are the kids taking part.
“We went because of their spirit.”
– Rick Mercer
“The students are doing the heavy lifting and it’s a very humbling experience because there’s always stories of kids that go above and beyond.”
Mercer said during his trip to Hamilton he had the opportunity to meet a little girl, who he says, left him with quite the impression.
“I talked to a girl who a year ago was a Syrian refugee and now she’s so excited to be going to Riddell, she loves Hamilton, she loves Canada [and] she’s so excited that she bought these bed nets to help kids sleep safe at night.”
‘A win-win experience’
“That just warms the cockles of your heart when you bump into kids like that,” Mercer said. “It’s just a win-win experience for me and it’s probably my favourite week of the year… on the Mercer Report.”
Malaria kills more children than any other disease, and while there’s still much work to be done, major steps have already been taken according to a 2015 study by Oxford University. It that found malaria infections in Africa have declined by 40 per cent since 2000. That means roughly 700 million malaria cases were prevented, with 68 per cent of those cases being prevented by bed nets alone.
The host of CBC’s Rick Mercer Report said the cause has been an important one to him since he took a trip to Africa.
“I went to Africa many years ago [and] one of the experiences that had the greatest impression on me was visiting communities where there was poverty in a way [we] can’t imagine having grown up in Canada.”
A clear contrast
He said the eye-opener came when he saw first-hand the difference a bed net can make. Mercer said in the first community, the fields were bare with no sign of crops being grown and playing children were nowhere to be found.
And then a couple of hundred miles down the road, Mercer said it was a different story.
“There’s kids running around, there’s food growing, there’s a small school and an economy,” he said.
“It was explained to me, essentially, the one big difference between the two communities was bed nets.”
He was told malaria had killed the children in the first community and had made the adults sick.
“But in the second one, they had bed nets and bed nets are such a simple thing to wrap your head around when fighting such a terrible problem like Malaria so I got involved with Spread the Net,” Mercer said.
“It’s just all about the kids having a good time”
– Rick Mercer
The Spread the Net Student Challenge, which has raised over $1.6 million for the fight against malaria since 2007 with more than 800 schools across Canada having taken part.
“The important thing is that kids are being involved in this type of endeavour,” Mercer said. “It’s just all about the kids having a good time and acknowledging their hard work.”
R.A. Riddell will be featured on the Rick Mercer Report next Tuesday, March 28 at 8:00 p.m. EST.