Kansas University student Hannah Parkinson, founder of Kansas Africa Relief Inc., will give a presentation about her nonprofit organization from noon to 1 p.m. Nov. 19 in Kansas Union, Alcove J. It is part of the Ujamaa Brownbag Lecture Series sponsored by the Kansas African Studies Center. Lunch and socializing will be from 11:30 a.m. to noon.
Donations can be made by sending a check payable to Kansas Africa Relief Inc. The address is 1735 W 19th St., Apt. B8, Lawrence, KS 66046.
To learn more, visit the Web site KARelief.com.
Before arriving in South Africa, Kansas University senior Hannah Parkinson said she knew the facts.
¢ Forty percent of the population is living on $1 per day or less.
¢ Life expectancy is about age 43.
¢ Five million people are HIV-positive.
¢ There are about 420,000 children who have lost their parents to AIDS.
But nothing could have prepared Parkinson for what she saw on the bus ride into Cape Town.
"There were just miles and miles of shacks, and by shacks, I mean they found a stick and an old tire and that's what the house is made out of. No exaggeration, they were god-awful homes."
In late May, she was among 60 students who spent two weeks in South Africa as part of the International Scholar Laureate Program. While there, she toured health clinics, orphanages and hospitals.
While medicine and treatments were scarce, Parkinson said she was impressed with the emotional support and education the places were able to provide the patients and, more importantly, residents who don't understand HIV.
"They are teaching people that it's not a great thing, but that you don't have to be socially isolated if you have this," she said.
Back in Lawrence, she couldn't stop thinking about the eye-opening experience.
"I fell in love with South Africa. I just fell in love with the kids that I saw," she said. "I thought those were great places that just needed a little extra help and that I could provide that."
So, she formed a nonprofit organization called Kansas Africa Relief Inc. in July. Its mission is to make a positive difference in South Africa's impoverished communities and medical facilities, primarily through education and financial support.
Parkinson said her ultimate goal would be to raise enough money to send a volunteer to South Africa where they could help in the clinics.
"That's kind of the big goal and that won't happen for a while, I think," she said.
So far, the nonprofit has raised about $1,000.
On Friday, members of the nonprofit and KU's Golden Key International Honor Society collected used cell phones and empty laser and ink jet printer cartridges. The old equipment will be recycled for money, which will be sent to one of three organizations that the nonprofit supports.
Those organizations are the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, which funds field trips, school lunches and education programs; Nkosi's Haven orphanage in Johannesburg; and an AIDS Care Training and Support (ACTS) clinic in rural South Africa near Hazyview.
Parkinson said the organizations have been good about sending her receipts or proof of where the money was spent.
"They've been very good about trying to keep accountability," she said.
Parkinson plans to return to South Africa next September with her fiance, James Benger. They actually are making it part of a honeymoon trip after getting married Sept. 9.
Benger, an assembly technician in Kansas City and a Johnson County Community College student, said Parkinson's enthusiasm has been contagious and he now serves as vice president of the nonprofit's seven-member board.
"I just wanted to do anything I could to help," he said. "The goal is obviously to help out in any way we can."
Benger said Parkinson has put her heart and soul into the organization.
"Every free minute that she has is spent on this nonprofit. I don't know when she finds time to sleep," he said. "She always manages to accomplish everything she sets out for. I have no doubt that she will pull this off."