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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

BSC Bringing Home the Money

BSC Coordinator Riche Zamor makes a cash donation to Ron Shepard of African Baobob, inc.

Capping a semester’s worth of dedicated grassroots efforts, Black Student Center Coordinator Riche Zamor handed over a semester’s worth of fundraising to Ron Shepard, co-director of African Baobob, Inc, a Newton-based charitable organization that volunteers aid in the famine-stricken African nation of Uganda.

Shepard and Zamor shook hands in a brief ceremony at UMass last week and Zamor handed over a fat stack of green from a courier’s pouch, the fruits of a spring semester fund drive by the BSC. The fundraiser, driven by slogans like “pennies add up” was carried out by BSC members carrying five-gallon spring water jugs into which passersby poured their change. Zamor called the fund it a “surprising success” and added, “We were shocked by every point we broke.”

The BSC donated a grand total of $3493.75, the combined efforts of a small corps of dedicated BSC activists. They managed to raise $400 in one afternoon; they carried their signature water jugs everywhere, encouraging donations and asking students to skip lunch and donate the money in order to raise awareness about what Goulet Shirdon called “a holocaust.”

Shirdon, one of the BSC fundraisers, was impassioned about the human condition in Africa, saying “I know first-hand about some of the conditions there. How come it’s not on the table?” and said, “We are all Africans; these brothers (and this sister here) and I are the children of the continent. We had a family obligation.”

According to Ron Shepard, the situation in Africa and Uganda, where the BSC’s money will end up, is dire, “8,000 per day are dying over there.”

Shepard’s non-profit organization, African Baobob, Inc, connects volunteers from the Boston area with orphans in Uganda. Uganda, like many other African countries, has been hard hit by AIDS, and consequently has a crisis in its child population. Estimates range up to 2 million children left as orphans by the epidemic, many infected by HIV themselves and lacking care or proper nutrition. Uganda, a rural country, is also in the grip of a famine.

African Baobob works with villages and communities directly, to avoid the corruption and sloth that are notorious for hampering aid efforts in Africa, establishing outposts in struggling rural villages and organizing local leaders. They eschew food aid and “band-aid” measures in favor of development programs. From their brochure, “We are committed to long-term self-sustaining programs that arise from a village’s self-identified needs.”

African Baobob works with a non-governmental sister organization, Murumba Uganda to establish schools, hospitals and rural health care, and facilitates small business capital and rural improvements.

Zamor explained that the fundraiser, proposed by the Beacon Leadership Program, was a good fit, “UMass Boston advertises diversity, commitment to excellence, public service. We felt that public service is extending our solidarity to people that really need it.”

Assistant Coordinator of BSC Hatim Jean-Louis said of the fund raising efforts, “Our main focus was to educate,” and laid out some of the political considerations behind the fund drive. “We felt that with American intervention in Iraq, we should protest… We want the American government to focus. If we are going to intervene in other countries, why don’t we intervene where it’s necessary?”

The BSC became involved with African Baobob through the Beacon Leadership Program, administrated through Student Life. Students and student groups learn about proposals through the Advisory Board, which helps students meet up with people like Mr. Shepard.

Mr. Shepard was pleased with the BSC’s efforts, saying, “This is a very emotional day for me.

“One of the things we’ve learned being in Africa [is] don’t promise them anything because too many people on this side promise and don’t deliver. All they want is hope. All they want to know is somebody 4,000 miles away is thinking of them.

“Well, they want some help too.”

About the Contributor
Carl Brooks served as news editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2003-2004