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Just when I was starting to miss my daily blogging routine, I received an e-mail announcement about a new Monrovia blog!  A women’s rights advocate from the IRC (International Rescue Committee, the organization JANE magazine worked with), Ann Jones, is spending 16 days in Monrovia and blogging about it! That’s her to the right.

She writes with such skill, putting many things that were indescribable to me into the perfect words. If my blog — written from the perspective of a naive 22-year-old — intrigued you, then you must read this blog, by a seasoned world traveler, as a sequel.

Though I’ve adopted the identity of a New Yorker, I will be the first person to proudly point out that a certain celebrity is a Jersey girl (Queen Latifah, Kelly Ripa, Calista Flockhart, Kirsten Dunst…the list goes on), or that a successful magazine editor went to my school, The College of New Jersey. Exhibit A: Annemarie Conte, a former JANE editor. When I interned at JANE, I must have mentioned around the office that she went to my college about 100 times. It gave my otherwise unrecognized school major cool points.

This month, when I was reading Seventeen, an article called “End AIDS in Africa” caught my eye, because of my trip and because of Alicia Keyes’ photo on the page. And then I noticed the byline — Annemarie Conte!! TCNJ strikes again! But really, school pride aside, I want you to check out the article because it supports what I really believe in — that glamour can drive global change.

Bono once told The New York Times, “Africa is sexy and people need to know that.” I know from taking a Gender & Democracy class that scholars often disapprove of glamorizing Africa and the Third World, but Bono has a practical point. “What is more interesting to me,” he said, dismissing the criticism, “is that we are losing the fight against AIDS in Africa. There are still 5,000 Africans dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, dying for lack of drugs that are available at any corner drugstore.” And if a red T-shirt from the Gap helps raise money for the medicines that save lives, who can argue?

Way to go, Seventeen and Annemarie, for giving this matter of substance appeal to the stylish teen girls out there who can make a difference!

For years, I’d wake up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving for Black Friday sales. Last year, I worked at a clothing store and witnessed the madness from a whole other angle. Conclusion: so not worth it! Stay home and shop online…and look, I’ve done your work for you!  All these gifts support AIDS relief or help eradicate poverty in Africa. See my full “Gifts That Give Back” list, and a clickable version of this collage, on Kaboodle. Do you know of any other items I should add to the list?

Gifts That Give Back collage

Happy Thanksgiving!

You know you’re at an interesting juncture in life when you spin out of the revolving doors of the St. Regis — an elegant hotel on 5th Ave. & 55th — carrying a white malaria net. 

This morning, I had the privilege of volunteering at New York Women in Communications’ Gratitude Breakfast. The guest speaker this year was author/broadcast journalist Deborah Norville and her publicist, Donna Dees, founder of the Million Mom March.

At the end of Ms. Dees’ remarks, she said that she would donate $5,000 to the scholarship fund if scholarship winners would help her spread the word about malaria nets for kids in Africa. I gasped. Sign me up! I HAD to go meet this woman after the breakfast.

When I told her I was going to Liberia, she handed me a bed net to bring to a child who needs it. Did you know a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds in Africa?! Malaria is the leading killer of African children under 5. I’ll be safe from this disease that mosquitoes carry because I’ll be taking antimalarial drugs. But these kids don’t have that luxury. While people search for a vaccine and work to make these drugs widely available, bed nets are the best temporary solution. 

bed netHow did Ms. Dees, who did more than her fair share of good will campaigning for safer gun laws with a million moms, add African issues to her plate? Her 12-year-old daughter, who learned about the organization Malaria No More from American Idol‘s “Giving Back” special, asked her publicist mom to chip in. This holiday, Phoebe urges you to donate $10 bed nets in the name of a family member or friend, who will receive an e-card acknowledgement.

Ms. Norville, who wrote a book called Thank You Power, spoke at the breakfast about acknowledging what you’re grateful for every day. Today, I’m grateful for the innocence and optimism of 12-year-olds, who remind us skeptical adults that we can change the world with netting. And I’m grateful for the woman who thought to carry malaria bed nets with her, on the 0.00001 % chance that someone in the fancy schmantzy St. Regis would actually be able to hand-deliver it to Africa.

Click here to send a holiday/New Year/birthday e-card to someone, letting them know you’ve purchased bed nets in their name.