Mary Claire (left) and Madelyn McGlynn
After deciding to send 400 bed nets to Uganda to fight malaria, then-high school freshman Mary Claire McGlynn and her younger sister, Madelyn McGlynn, knew they had to do something more to make a difference.
The sisters, inspired by discussions with Rev. Michael Mujule, a priest from Uganda, started what has now become a national non-profit charity, NETwork Against Malaria, an organization that has chapters around the United States.
The McGlynns estimate that they have helped save 13,200 lives thanks to $10 dollar nets that can be used by three people at a time. To date, they have sent 4,400 nets, which are treated to discourage the carriers of the disease.
At age 18 and 16 respectively, Mary Claire and Madelyn have more than surpassed their goal.
The sisters are the daughters of Belleville attorney Michael McGlynn and nieces of St. Clair County Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn.
Last month, Mary Claire was named to the 2011 Chicago Tribune All-State Academic Team.
While all five McGlynn sisters have supported in the project, Mary Claire and Madelyn say their mother, Claire McGlynn is "our number one fan." And the pair said their accomplishments are collaborative.
"We're the dream team," the two joked in an interview Tuesday with The Madison County Record.
NETwork Against Malaria grew out of conversations the sisters had with Mujule four years ago. Mujule had come to the Belleville dioceses from his home diocese in Uganda, in central Africa.
According to the charity's Web site, Mujule talked extensively about malaria and its impact on Ugandan society.
Malaria is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that attacks the brain and organs. If untreated, the disease can be fatal.
After doing initial research, the pair wrote and won a $1,000 grant from Youth Venture.
Because the grant stipulated its funds could not be used directly to purchase the $10
dollar treated nets for the project, the McGlynns looked for other ways to raise funds.
They started by selling T-shirts.
Chapters of the organization sprang up at colleges the pair's older sisters attended.
NETwork partnered with an agency that sells paper beads made by Ugandan women.
NETwork now sells jewelry made by its volunteers to finance the purchase of the malaria nets.
"NETwork is so tangible," Madelyn said. "When you buy or make a necklace, you're really saving three people's lives."
Volunteers in Uganda work with teachers and schools to educate children about the uses of the nets.
One of the challenges the project faces, Madelyn said, is that often people receiving them are unaware of their importance and they use them as fabric stand-ins for wedding gowns and other purposes.
"Their only experience with nets is catching animals or catching fish," Mary Claire McGlynn said. She praised specifically the organization's Ugandan partners for the success. "Without them we'd be just another organization dropping off nets for wedding dresses."
NETwork locally has a mother-daughter event and possible festival appearances coming up this summer.
And while the pair has yet to see their work's impact on the ground in Uganda, the McGlynns hope to some day get the chance.
"The goal is to get there," Mary Claire said. "We thought we could either buy all these bed nets and save kids' lives or we could fly there."
Madelyn nodded in agreement.
"And I don't think Mom would let us go to Uganda by ourselves."
For more information about NETwork Against Malaria, visit http://www.networkagainstmalaria.org