Campus Initiative Works to Save Africa's Children
What does Iset Anuakan have in common with Natalie Cole, Ray Romano and Magic Johnson? Like these celebrities, who have used their fame to draw attention to the scourge of disease, malnutrition and lack of education in developing countries through organizations like Save Africa’s Children, she is working to help children and mothers affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa through her involvement with Water for Children Africa (WCA).
The lecturer in the California State University, Dominguez Hills psychology department is spearheading a collection drive on campus through Friday, June 15, to gather donations of hygiene supplies, over-the-counter medicines, toys and other personal items. She will be delivering the donations in person this summer while traveling with a 15-person WCA team, visiting hospitals in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and building 41 water towers in villages.
“The best thing we can do to prevent children of mothers with HIV from contracting the disease is to help keep them clean,” Anuakan says. “There is a complex variety of health issues, but we can make sure the mothers have hygiene supplies like cotton balls, bandages and other items that we take for granted. Simply providing these for the children can help prevent the spread of infection.”
The water towers, which the WCA team will purchase in Kenya and build in several villages, hold 6,000 gallons of rain water. Anuakan says that the lack of clean water is also a major cause of infection.
“I’ve heard stories about kids who get infected with HIV just from simple scrapes and cuts because of the unclean water and lack of medical supplies to help them heal in a sanitary way,” she says. “While we’re there, we’re going to visit the previously built ones and drink from the water to demonstrate that it’s good for the people in the villages.”
Anuakan’s trip and the purchase of one water tower are being sponsored by the Africa Initiative, a project of the CSU Dominguez Hills Black Faculty and Staff Association, along with a gift from the Leo F. Cain Library. This will be the organization’s first effort in an ongoing plan to address the needs of African children.
Dominguez Hills students are also helping the cause. Members of the Sisterhood of Isis have assisted the BFSA in assembling what Anuakan calls “life kits” of hygiene supplies, small clothing items and toys for African children and mothers living with HIV. Anuakan hopes that opportunities for students to travel to Africa will be part of African Initiative’s future initiatives, not only to help with the needs of developing countries, but for cultural enrichment.
“Part of their education should be the kind of hands-on learning that comes from studying abroad,” she says. “We’re not just going there to help solve their problems. One of the things that would be beneficial to the students is to see the beauty of different cultures.”
Anuakan attributes her lifelong interest in African culture to her aunt, Lillian Kennedy Beam, who was an educator and directed the U.S. International University of Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, for 18 years. Beam, who is 83, was instrumental in the establishment of the university and shared with Anuakan the struggles of acquiring the land that it was built on.
“She was my introduction to Africa when I was a child,” Anuakan remembers. “She would bring back pictures of beautifully dressed, vibrant people. So I did not grow up with the impoverished image that we usually see in the media.”
Items recommended for donation include baby, children and adult-strength Motrin and Tylenol; multivitamins; calamine lotion; wipes; cotton balls; Neosporin; Polysporin; anti-fungal creams, 1 percent hydrocortisone creams; small bottles of hand sanitizers, alcohol-wipes, small bottles of astringents, bandages; gauze wraps and pads; ace wraps; micropore tape; Betadine wipes; packages of washcloths; socks; flip-flop sandals; small toys like crayons, Frisbees, yo-yos and hand puppets, and individually wrapped candy. Donations may be dropped off at the library circulation desk or the President’s Office by Friday, June 15 at 5 p.m.
For more information, contact Robert Downs at (310) 243-2404.
- Joanie Harmon-Whetmore
Photo above (L-R): Sandra Parham, dean, Leo F. Cain Library and vice president, BFSA; Virginia Long, executive assistant to the president and Iset Anuakan, lecturer, psychology and chair of the African Initiative, BFSA. Photo by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore