This tour isn’t for suckers.
The Mosquitoes Suck Tour is a 60-minute show featuring some of Canada’s finest magicians and comics who both inform and entertain high school audiences on the global issue of malaria.
Proceeds from fundraising for the MST go to the Spread The Net campaign run by Rick Mercer and Belinda Stronach, and pay for bed netting to protect children in underdeveloped countries.
There are over 3,700 different types of mosquitoes that carry diseases such as Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever, yellow fever and the incredibly resilient malaria.
Half a million people die each year from the plasmodium parasite known as malaria in more than 100 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
“In Canada it is nothing but a summer annoyance but this almost ubiquitous life-threatening disease that once plagued North America could one day return… When you start to find out who (had) malaria — Oliver Cromwell, Alexander the Great, Abe Lincoln, George Washington — in D.C. malaria was endemic at one time,” said David Peck, Humber grad and lecturer on international development and creator of the Mosquitoes Suck Tour.
“We want to engage the students with social justice issues and education about malaria. It’s really important that people are entertained, I want the students to have as much fun as possible,” said Matthew Disero, comedian, magician and co-creator of MST.
Six months ago, Peck approached James Cullin, associate dean of Humber’s Business School, to become an MST sponsor.
“We sponsor part of it and in return we have the ability to connect with students that we think would be the type of students that would be interested in the international development degree at Humber as a pathway for them to make meaningful social change,” said Cullin.
The more you know about a subject, the more responsibility you have to either tell the story or do something about it, said Peck. Travelling to countries Cambodia and Thailand –where malaria is endemic increased Peck’s awareness of not only the disease but the responsibility of being a global citizen.
“Malaria is treatable, it’s preventable and the reality is, it’s nasty and prevalent. It is not really our problem right now,” he said, “but aren’t we all in this together, aren’t we all part of this crazy beautiful world?”
In 2008, Peck created SoChange, a non-governmental organization working towards social justice issues in international development — out of this came the MST.
“I have always had this desire to help, to build, to create and SoChange is about that. It comes out of the question: Where can I do the most good?”
Peck’s years of experience in international development gave him the tools to develop an educational yet entertaining way of bringing awareness about malaria.
“The thing I’ve learned in international development is that it’s all connected…these bloody little mosquitoes can create all of this damage and harm — just think about the impact we can have individually…how are we going to give back?” said Peck.
The province-wide MST performances are creating awareness among youth in Canada. “The students who go to these events invariably leave with a higher level of social consciousness and a clear sense of how they can make meaningful change in the world,” said Cullin.
A recent performance at the St. Barbara elementary school in Mississauga engaged Grade 8 students to do fundraising for the MST by selling coffee.
“We sold $2,200 worth of coffee and we were collecting toonies to buy a bed net,” said Peter Benec, a Grade 8 teacher at St. Barbara.
A treated bed net with insecticide is good for protection from malaria for up to five years. “Every $10 that gets raised goes to a bed net that gets sent to Africa and that can save up to five children,” said Disero.
Real change is incremental — everything is connected, said Peck. “I see the show being something different in a few years time, advocating for global citizenship and civic engagement, not just malaria. We would love to do a show for Humber — my goal is to take this across Canada and eventually the world,” Peck said.