Fifteen year old Siya Kulkarni, from India, was the winner of the 2011 Me and My Net competition. Her prize was a packed visit to London, during Commonwealth Week 2012. Below, Siya reflects on her experiences during the week and how it has had an impact on her understanding of the global challenge of malaria:
The week of March 10th-15th was an exciting yet enriching experience for me. It all started of with my winning the Me And My Net competition, and receiving the news this January about a trip to London. I was thrilled to bits, because my trip was to be scheduled around Commonwealth Day, celebrated on March 12th, and I was to be a flag bearer for my country, India, at the Observance at Westminster Abbey. I’d also be presenting my winning entry, a campaign that targeted children to raise awareness about using nets to prevent malaria.
March 11th was the beginning of an eventful week. This was the day I was to present my campaign at the Commonwealth Nurses Conference, and although I was awfully edgy about how it would go, the nurses made me feel so at-home that I didn’t worry about muddling my speech.
The next day was the focus of my week, something I’d been looking forward to: the Commonwealth Day Observance. For me this was a great platform for interacting with different people. Of course, the most exciting part of the day was seeing Her Majesty The Queen! All of us were thrilled when she passed by us, and it was, undeniably, a memorable day.
The day after Commonwealth day was going to be chock-a-block again. I was scheduled to visit the Malaria No More office to discuss my campaign in the morning. I was amazed by how creative campaigns could get in terms of raising awareness, when I heard about their campaigns. After a tête-à-tête with the team, we left for The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to visit their insectaries, where we were taken through small “caves” where the malaria-spreading insects were bred. It was fascinating to see the variety of mosquito species from different parts of the world. That evening, I presented my campaign once more, this time to people from Sumitomo Chemical, representatives from malaria and education organisations and two nurses from the Nurses Conference. I enjoyed talking to everyone there. That day, despite being tiring, was extremely fruitful.
The RCS had organized a tour of the Houses of Parliament the following morning through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, and I had the opportunity to witness the Prime Minister’s Question Time. Although the Prime Minister was overseas at the time, we watched the Deputy Prime Minister battle with the questions.
Looking back at my week in London, I feel a sense of achievement I have never felt before. This was an experience I would cherish forever, because I learnt so much, and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I felt more confident, more aware and humbled after discovering how little I knew about other Commonwealth nations, and what a serious problem malaria is. Right from the time I started working on this competition, till the end of my week in London, I have had a series of experiences that I hope will make me into a more mature and broad-minded person. I sincerely thank the RCS for giving me such a wonderful learning opportunity.