Professor helps Tanzanian orphans

More than two million people are infected with HIV or AIDS in Tanzania. Of those, 110,000 are children. Last year’s death toll was about 140,000, and many of those who died left children behind. Thanks in part to the efforts of one USF professor, many of those orphans now have shelter from poverty.

Assistant professor Dawood Sultan of the Africana Studies Department in the College of Arts and Sciences is new to USF, but over the past two years he has taken dozens of students to help Tanzanian orphans. Three orphanages in Tanzania have developed greatly over the last seven years, providing health care, a foster care system, food and clothing.

Before transferring to USF, Sultan taught at the University of Tennessee and traveled to Tanzania with five students in 2006 to immerse himself and his students in the culture.

“I have seen many little children in Africa who were rendered parentless because of HIV/AIDS,” Sultan said. “They interest me as a researcher and as someone who is interested in helping them.”

Sultan and his students took a 16-day trip, during which they went on safari, visited the village of a Maasai tribe and volunteered at three local orphanages. His two main goals for the trip, he said, were to expose his students to life in a country rich with history and culture but lacking educational resources and to give them an opportunity that most people could not.

“The trip was highly educational,” Dawood said. “I know that positive and meaningful change can come from young people if we give them the right tools.”

Sultan’s findings in Tanzania are relevant to his research on health care issues among women and children in developing nations, as well as health care problems among blacks in the U.S.

His story not only affected youths in Tanzania, it also touched the lives of students here at USF.

In the fall of 2007, Sultan presented his research from the trip at the seventh annual Hunger Banquet in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. At the banquet, USF student and secretary of By Your Side Joanna Scian approached Sultan about his program in Africa to learn how the organization could help African orphans.

Scian said she saw the trip to Tanzania as the perfect opportunity to join the global fight against AIDS.

“Everyone will be interested in the program, but only those that work hard will participate,” Sultan said.

Founded by four USF Honors College students in 2007, By Your Side says it is dedicated to providing volunteer services and programs that emphasize practical education and life coping strategies for palliative care patients and their loved ones. The organization is affiliated with the Africana Studies Club and the Sigma Beta Rho fraternity.

Club president Amir Boules said the organization is planning to host two fundraisers to benefit orphans in Tanzania. The first will be held April 3 in the Marshall Center Ballroom. All proceeds from the fundraisers will go directly to Sultan’s AIDS & Africa program.

Boules said they will also hold a gala June 21 at the Gibbons Alumni Center to “exemplify the program.” The event is a black tie charity dinner that will feature live African dancers and a silent auction of Tanzanian art pieces.

This summer, a group of USF students comprising Sultan and By Your Side members will travel to Tanzania to get firsthand experience working with members of the community.

Even though some students may be nervous about what they will experience, Scian said, she “expects to experience the people of Tanzania and their culture, and see how HIV/AIDS has impacted their lives.”

“I expect to see what kind of a difference a student like me can make,” she said.