In continuing our ‘get to know‘ an Malaria Partners International board member feature, we are highlighting the rich diversity of the board and how each individual contributes to our mission.

This month we are featuring Sala Sweet. Sala has spent much of her professional career creating or managing affordable housing, including 14 years at the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. She served in the Peace Corps in Ghana in 1998-2000 and Ghana became her second home. In Ghana she has worked with health care providers and educators. In 2014 she co-founded a nonprofit, Grow Foundation for Ghana, and has been returning to Ghana for 2-4 months each year since 2013. Recipients of assistance from Grow Ghana include a college and a clinic of integrative medicine, a secondary school and art teachers in Kumasi. Sala has a passion for bringing better health to all people of Ghana and is looking forward to working with Malaria Partners International to eradicate or curtail malaria. Her desire to do this comes from face-to-face experience with friends and patients who she personally knows suffering from malaria. Sala was a member of Ballard Rotary in 2013- 2017 is now a member of University District Rotary. During a recent trip to Ghana she engaged with 5 Rotary clubs to bring them into this life changing initiative.

1) What makes Malaria Partners International’s mission (To ignite an International Rotarian Campaign for the Global Eradication of Malaria) meaningful to you?
I have lived in Ghana and witnessed the devastation malaria can bring. I have seen children
die. I have seen adults who contract malaria and then it returns again and again hindering their
ability to work and serve their families and enjoy life. I have a friend who had a very serious
strain of malaria, was in intensive care for 2 months and lost many of his fingers and toes. In
short, it is one of the most serious, if not the most serous health problems on the African
continent . It kills people, it disables them over the span of their life and it affects the economy
of communities.

2)  How does your current role tie into your role on the Malaria Partners International Board, if at all?

I believe that Malaria should be the next campaign focus of Rotary International.  I am a co-founder of an NGO, Grow foundation for Ghana, that focuses on health care and education. I visit Ghana every year for 2-4 months and hope to bring an Malaria Partners International initiative to Ghana.

3) When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
Reading, listening to jazz live, walking, enjoying art and theater.

4) What’s a story of yours that you don’t get to tell often enough?

When I was getting ready to go to Ghana in the Peace Corps, someone said to me “Don’t worry about all the things you can’t address, just do the best with your skills to address what you can change”  Then I arrived, in 1998, more than 30 years after the Peace Corps came to Ghana. Almost immediately, I was meeting people who had made a successful career in government or business who said. “If it hadn’t been for my Peace Corps teacher many years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today”.  Those early Peace corps teachers didn’t necessarily see the seeds they planted grow and bloom. Plant what you want to grow with no expectation that you may see the fruition. Nurture what you have planted. Think carefully about how it may grow. Do it because it matters.

Or more humorously,  My birth name is Sallie Ann Sweet.  My initials spell Sass. And my dad always called me Sassy.  So that’s what I grew up to be.

5) What is one way you think malaria elimination can be achieved?
Teaching and engaging people to clean up the physical environment in their communities and setting up a tradition, a community based agreement, to keep it cleaned up.  Although vaccines and medications are important, it is the community involvement that makes eradication sustainable. And Rotary can help with this by being on the ground, working with and supporting communities to assume the ultimate responsibility for eradicating malaria. This involves education, empowerment of the people in the communities where an initiative is launched and rewarding those who participate by recognizing the importance of their role.
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