American Idol’s Katharine McPhee says ‘no more’ to malaria

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(CNN) — “It’s just interesting how sometimes you cross paths with people in your life,” reflects Katharine McPhee in a 2012 interview with CNN. The words continue to ring true for the actress and “American Idol” alumnae.

Over the past two years, McPhee has been working with the nonprofit organization, Malaria No More, to save the lives of children half a world away. It all started when a chance connection brought McPhee from the California coast to the poor, landlocked country of Burkina Faso in West Africa.

In 2007, a family friend living in Burkina Faso told her about a need for a new preschool in the Nioko District of the capital city, Ouagadougou. She and husband, Nick Cokas, agreed to help fund the project. McPhee was not able to travel to Africa when the doors opened in 2009, but kept in touch with the school’s headmaster through e-mail.

“We were sort of losing connection with her … and she e-mailed back saying, ‘I am so sorry. I have been sick with malaria more than once this year,’ ” McPhee says.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that, left untreated, can be extremely serious and even fatal, particularly for young children. However, Malaria related illness and death can usually be prevented according to the Centers for Disease Control.

McPhee knew she had to help.

“Every minute a child dies from malaria. Every minute. That is pretty stunning. If that was happening in the States there would be action right away. It would be an epidemic,” McPhee says.

McPhee and the team from Malaria No More traveled to West Africa in 2012. She finally got to visit the school she helped build years earlier, but the team’s main mission was to distribute mosquito nets and educate people in Burkina Faso and Ghana on malaria prevention.

She continues the mission back at home by getting out the word on how to help.

“The message is that this is a disease that nobody should be living with and if they do get infected it’s curable. They just need the right resources.”

Earlier this year, she spoke to a room filled with college fraternity and sorority members, encouraging them to join with Malaria No More to end malaria related deaths by 2015 through Greeks for Good.

She admits that it is easy to feel powerless in the face of a disease like malaria, but any action, however small, can impact a life. That is the idea behind Malaria No More’s “Power of One” campaign, in which every dollar donated to the campaign will pay for one full course of treatment for a child with malaria.

“Every trip you go, every dollar you send, every organization you get involved with, you can make a difference,” McPhee says.

For more information on how you can join McPhee in the fight against Malaria, visit CNN’s Impact Your World.

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