For a dozen years, a Wilkes University dean has been helping raise awareness and funds to help orphaned children with AIDS in Tanzania. On Saturday, a fundraiser on the university's campus will allow supporters of the program to see exactly what challenges the children face.
A 34-minute documentary called It Takes a Village will detail student and filmmaker Kirstin Cook's month-long visit this summer to the African nation. She traveled there on a scholarship as part of the academic study-abroad program.
Cook, a senior communications studies student from Windham, Maine, spent a month in Karagwe along with another Wilkes student, 10 students from The University of Pittsburgh and Linda Winkler, dean of the Wilkes College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
Hearing about the epidemic and the hardships many in the country are going through is one thing, Cook said, but to be there, talking to the students the fundraising helps and seeing what their daily lives are like brings a deeper prospective.
It was a learning experience, said Cook. Seeing it firsthand is very important. You hear about their issues, but seeing it makes a difference.
Money raised at Wilkes fundraisers, which to date totals nearly $3,000, is used to pay for education, clothing, housing, medication and food for three orphans who are now in high school. Previous fundraisers, which included events at Arts YOUniverse in Wilkes-Barre and in the Henry Center ballroom, have drawn mostly members of the campus community.
People are compassionate, said Winkler, who started her work in Tanzania while she worked at The University of Pittsburgh and continued it when she arrived at Wilkes. People do want to serve. They do want to do good. They appreciate what they have, and they're eager to offer what they have to others.
Cook said she is hoping this event will draw more interest and participation from the non-college community.
Winkler has tasked the job of getting out the message to Zebra Communications, the Wilkes University student-run public relations agency.
The club created a name, branded the charity Embrace a Child in Tanzania and has marketed the fundraiser and other efforts.
Devoni Novak, a senior communications major from Laceyville who serves as secretary of Zebra Communications, said the students involved in the project have become attached to it.
She said Cook was able to see and do what we've been working on and the movie will allow others to see where their money goes and whom it helps.
The three Tanzanian orphans, Benitha, Kihinga George and Ananias Ezekia, are featured throughout the movie as is Venant Mugenyi, the coordinator of the AIDS Control Project.
Cook said while it was difficult at times to witness the conditions and hear the heartbreaking stories, what she came away with was validation the help is doing good.
It was tough seeing these children and the lack of resources and how badly they wanted an education, Cook said. They were so motivated to get that education. That drive is something I was really inspired by and I hope it comes across in the movie.
WHAT: Fundraiser benefiting the Embrace a Child in Tanzania campaign. Includes a dance performance by Julie Degnan, live jazz music, screening of the student documentary It Takes a Village and a silent auction. Refreshments will be available.
WHEN: Saturday at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Henry Student Center Ballroom on the Wilkes campus
TICKETS: $5 and available at the door