By Nancy Price
A member of Kiwanis International has been working to eliminate neonatal tetanus – one step at a time across America.
Jester Jersey of California walked across the U.S. five years ago to raise funds for Project Eliminate, sponsored by Kiwanis International. The project’s goal is to raise awareness for maternal neonatal tetanus (MNT) and to provide vaccines to expectant mothers in third world countries. Millions of women of childbearing years are still at risk for this deadly disease due to poverty and unsafe birthing practices.
Jersey recently spoke to members of the Kiwanis Club of Perry Township about his passion for the project. “Finding solutions to problems has always been an interest to me,” he said. “I researched the story behind the cause and saw how preventable tetanus was, but also how difficult it was to get treatment for it only because many people who suffer from it live in impoverished nations. “Growing up in a working-class family, I wasn’t always fortunate to have many luxuries. Living with little resources is one thing but living without a simple resource to help preserve your health and help you stay healthy is another.”
He was inspired to walk after learning of books written by authors who journeyed around the country, including Matt Mattingly, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Sonora, Calif. “I saw an opportunity where I could help out, so I took the opportunity to help fill a need where I could make a difference and rolled with it! Sometimes, the best journeys are the ones where you go the extra mile for others.”
Jersey brought just a backpack and tent along his journey. “I had the aid of technology on my side, since I had a netbook computer and a cell phone, things that didn’t exist in 1990. But I also had old-fashioned things too, like a compass and I had used maps a few times where there most likely wouldn’t be internet or phone signals.”
Although concerned for his safety by traveling alone, “people I met were very helpful, often letting me know of storm warnings, offering rides or just giving me supplies,” Jersey said. “I’m pretty sure I looked like a homeless person almost at times during the walk, but I was glad for the people that bothered to stop to talk to me about what I was doing. It made human interaction feel worthwhile, especially when it was rare at times. Sometimes I hardly saw a person after a whole day of walking. It was also welcome to talk to someone I came across, especially when they wanted to know more about Kiwanis, the fundraiser or my journey.”
Jersey received about $2,000 in donations along his journey, with another $2,500 during the next few months. He continues to raise money for the project. “The Eliminate Project is by no means done and we will continue the fight until the current dozen nations transition to the list of where tetanus has been eliminated,” Jersey said.
“Kiwanians are inspired to not only help contribute but also to have community and fundraising projects to be sure it is successfully completed,” said Perry Kiwanis Co-president Scott Splichal. “Also, if one person can raise $5,000 in one event, individual clubs can do their part. All the money collected counts whether it is large or small. It all goes into the same pot and makes the goal closer to completion.
For more information on Jester Jersey’s journey, go to charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/eliminate-tetanus-campaign-2020/jester-jersey.