Response to a recent attack in Uganda

Asante has worked in Uganda for four years, and we’ve developed strong partnerships on the ground through our work with Arlington Academy of Hope. One of our amazing partners, Naomi Muganwa, has been organizing Albinism Awareness Clinics for the last three years, and helped us plan and run skin cancer screenings last spring, where we saw over 500 people with albinism.

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She told us this story last week:

“I received a call from the parents of a child with albinism from our region. They were very concerned because a neighbor had shaved off some hair from their child. I immediately reported the matter to the police and went with Fred (a local man with albinism) to talk to the villagers. 

At first the culprits did not take us seriously, but as a social worker and an advocate for the vulnerable persons authorized by the government, we were able to explain in detail the issues surrounding albinism and the consequences for their actions. They declared that they were instructed by the witch doctor to secure the hair from an albino to generate for them riches!

We managed to sensitize them and they promised not to do it again.  After the police intervention, we continued back to their home and involved the local council members. I believe the action taken had an impact. The police caution that any further similar attacks on people with albinism will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of Uganda.”

Bravo, Naomi! Thank you for your tireless work on behalf of people with albinism in Uganda.

Uganda Trip a Success: Building on Our Partnerships with an Asante Angel

Our trip to Uganda has been in the works for several years, but it took the prompting of our close partner Naomi Muganwe to make it happen. Naomi runs Mercy Care, which is a center for children with special needs in the Bududa region. The center has also become a source for education and supplies for people with albinism, and was the site of the first International Albinism Awareness Day celebration in June of 2015.

Naomi has the energy of five people, and a heart to match.  Her passion and dedication brought us to Uganda, and we were thrilled to hold our first skin clinic at her center in March. She rallied volunteers, reached out on a radio program and what we thought was going to be one event for @ 100 people quickly became four events for over 400 people, in three different locations with three dermatologists. By the end of the trip, we had educated almost 450 family and community members, screened 230 people with albinism for cancer, performed 41 cryosurgeries — and distributed hundreds of pounds of supplies. We also linked several albinism advocacy groups and visited with our scholarship students, but that’s a story for another post! Thank you to Naomi, who is truly an angel.

Naomi educating a father and his daughter about skin protection and albinism.

Naomi educating a father and his daughter about skin protection and albinism.

Albinism Awareness Soccer Tournament spreads message of inclusion

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We were excited to celebrate the first International Albinism Awareness Day at Kabanga, but we wanted to do something a little different from the typical speeches, and decided to host a soccer tournament.  There were six matches over several days, with the final match drawing over 800 locals. We handed out our “watu wenye ualbino ni binadamu kama sisi” bracelets and educational materials, and people watched integrated teams battle it out.  It was an exciting and different way to celebrate albinism awareness, with a positive message of inclusion and acceptance.

We look forward to a yearly event!

Progress Bittersweet While Murders Continue

In trying to capture the essence of our work in Tanzania and Uganda this year, I was not sure what to focus on. Should it be the installation of the water treatment and sanitation system for Kabanga – bringing clean water to the disabled children and those with albinism at the protectorate center? Or should it be our involvement in organizing the first international albinism conference in Tanzania, where there were over 160 attendees from at least six different African nations? Or the continued success of our six scholarship students?

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Asante member Diane Vogel Raful at first international albinism conference in Africa, with Asante delegation from Kibondo

Each merit a full discussion and a celebration.  However, maybe the best way to describe our work this last year is with a combination of the good and the terrible.  As we concluded our trip this summer, conferencing with our partners on lessons learned and making future plans, a 40 year-old woman with albinism was murdered a few hundred kilometers away.  We were shocked and devastated – and struck by the horrible coincidence. While local leaders and partners were concluding an exciting event featuring dignity, awareness and equality for people with albinism – cruel ignorance struck.  The violence has continued – with another murder in Tanzania and one in Malawi in the past few months.  We are reminded of how much work there is left to do – to honor the victims of violence like Munghu Lugata; but also to celebrate the successes of people with albinism everywhere.  Please join us in our journey.

 

Powerful Film Highlights Albinism Advocate – February 19th in Washington DC

 

How many of us are willing to confront people willing to kill us – or who think we are cursed?  Not to blame or chastise, but to reach out and to educate?  Josephat Torner is a man with albinism in Tanzania who decides to take on the fear and superstition personally, saying, “I need to change society so it can accept me.”

 

He is the subject of a movie called “In the Shadow of the Sun” that is being screened at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in DC on February 19th.  Asante Mariamu has worked with Josephat for over a year now, and he traveled with our group last summer, visiting rural communities and educating people about albinism.

 

The threat to Josephat’s life is very real.  In each small town that the team visited, the first thing that he did was present himself to the local police station and register his presence in the community.  It was a not-too subtle way of saying: “I am here and I am not hiding.” That’s a powerful message for people with albinism in Tanzania, who often live on the margins of society.

 

We’ll tell more of Josephat’s story in another post, but for now – please mark you calendars and plan to join us at the West End Cinema in DC at 7:00 pm on February 19, 2014.  You’ll be profoundly moved by his courage, and will understand why we are dedicated to helping Josephat change life for people with albinism in East Africa.


“In the Shadow of the Sun,” a passionate look at acceptance and bravery.

Josephat Torner risks his life for change and acceptance

How many of us are willing to confront people willing to kill us – or who think we are cursed?  Not to blame or chastise, but to reach out and to educate?  Josephat Torner is a man with albinism in Tanzania who decides to take on the fear and superstition personally, saying, “I need to change society so it can accept me.”

He is the subject of a movie called “In the Shadow of the Sun” that is being screened at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in DC on February 19th.  Asante Mariamu has worked with Josephat for over a year now, and he traveled with our group last summer, visiting rural communities and educating people about albinism.

The threat to Josephat’s life is very real.  In each small town that the team visited, the first thing that he did was present himself to the local police station and register his presence in the community.  It was a not-too subtle way of saying: “I am here and I am not hiding.” That’s a powerful message for people with albinism in Tanzania, who often live on the margins of society.

We’ll tell more of Josephat’s story in another post, but for now – please mark you calendars and plan to join us at the West End Cinema in DC at 7:00 pm on February 19, 2014.  You’ll be profoundly moved by his courage, and will understand why we are dedicated to helping Josephat change life for people with albinism in East Africa.

“In the Shadow of the Sun,” a passionate look at acceptance and bravery.

Small change, big results…..

Dear Friends and supporters,

It’s that time of year when charitable requests arrive with the frequency of Christmas and holiday cards.  Organizations like Asante Mariamu rely on small donors to run our programs.  $50 buys a Rafiki Pack full of sun protection gear for a student; $10 provides a hat and sunglasses; and $300 can educate a child for a year.  Recurring donors help us create sustainable programs with confidence.  If you can spare a donation at the end of 2013 – you can claim it on your taxes and help us reach more kids with albinism in East Africa.

It’s easy to help – just follow the link to send a secure payment via PayPal.  Many thanks, and a very Happy New Year to you and yours…..

Click here to support our programs.

Purchase “Asante Angels” as a gift … and help kids with albinism, too!






“Asante Angels” are a perfect holiday ornament, window hanging, or package decoration.  At $10 each, you can order several and have them on hand to thank teachers, neighbors, co-workers and friends.
  
The angels are handcrafted in Kenya and Uganda through a fair trade cooperative, and are made from banana fibers and sisal (5″ tall).  Each includes a certificate confirming that your purchase benefits children in East Africa by covering the cost of sun-protective gear. 

If you are in the DC region, you can pick up your angels at the Washington Lee High School Holiday Shop on December 7th.  Angels can be also be delivered via USPS for an additional $2.50.  

Orders must be completed by November 29th.  Make payments via the Asante Mariamu website via PayPal or in person.   
Payment information: Make checks out to Asante Mariamu.  For PayPal, click “Donate” under “One Time Donation,” reference Asante Angel in the “special comments to seller” section, and provide a shipping address if necessary. Payments should be $10 per angel, or $12.50 per angel with shipping.  

Purchase “Asante Angels” for the angels in your life… and help kids with albinism, too!

 
photo of Asante Angels tree ornaments
 “Asante Angels” are a perfect holiday ornament, window hanging, or package decoration.  At $10 each, you can order several and have them on hand to thank teachers, neighbors, co-workers and friends.
The angels are handcrafted in Kenya and Uganda through a fair trade cooperative, and are made from banana fibers and sisal (5″ tall).  Each includes a certificate confirming that your purchase benefits children in East Africa by covering the cost of sun-protective gear.
If you are in the DC region, you can pick up your angels at the Washington Lee High School Holiday Shop on December 7th. Angels can be also be delivered via USPS for an additional $2.50.
Orders must be completed by November 29th.  Make payments via the Asante Mariamu website via PayPal or in person.
Payment information: Make checks out to Asante Mariamu.  For PayPal, click “Donate” under “One Time Donation,” reference Asante Angel in the “special comments to seller” section, and provide a shipping address if necessary. Payments should be $10 per angel, or $12.50 per angel with shipping.

One Person Can Make a Huge Difference: an Eagle Scout helps Asante Mariamu

Over a year ago, Asante Mariamu received an email from Khai Fletcher, a teenager in Maryland.  Khai was a Boy Scout for years, and wanted to become an Eagle Scout.  He needed to plan and develop a service project, and he chose helping people with albinism in Tanzania.
It takes a lot of work to become an Eagle Scout.  Khai researched albinism, and learned how it impacts people in East Africa.  Over the next year, he planned, developed and participated in several awareness activities.  Khai spoke at Scout meetings, at his church and in his community; he enlisted friends and family to help; and hosted a Sun Drive to gather donations.

Through his efforts, Khai raised a lot of awareness about albinism and the threat of skin cancer.  He collected clothing, brimmed hats and many pairs of sunglasses.  He also held a car wash to raise money to buy monoculars for students with albinism — and raised over $300!

We love working with young people, and Khai is a good example of how much one person can do to help.  Thanks so much to Khai’s family, his troop and his community for supporting his hard work.  Asante sana, Khai!