Santa Monica entrepreneur fights malaria with bracelets

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Santa Monica resident Kristen Kenney discovered her calling by fearing for her life.

She had traveled to Africa with her best friend from college to shoot a documentary called "Tanzania: The Journey Within," when she contracted malaria.

"It's awful. It is a flu times ten. All I'm thinking is, 'Are we going to make it?'" Kenney said.

When she got sick, she took a bus for six hours to find the nearest malaria medicine.

"For 6 hours, it is hot. Africa hot. Smelly. You just have people sitting on you. You're throbbing," Kenney said.

"Once that IV hooked up to me and the medicine, I could feel it in my veins, it was the best feeling of my life," Kenney said.

Kenney stayed in the hospital for four days. Her bill? Only $7.

"Can you believe that? $7?" Kenney asked.

Kenney could afford the treatment, but she noticed many nearby patients could not. More than 200 million people contract malaria every year, and more than half a million die from it.

It was "an immediate calling," said Kenney, who started Malaika for Life, an organization that sells bracelets to raise money for malaria treatment.

The bracelets are made by Tanzanian women and sold online for $15. Each bracelet saves at least five lives.

In total, Malaika for Life has saved 30,000 lives.

"Anyone can make a difference. If you have a passion go for it," Kenney said.

To buy a bracelet, visit

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