Aid to South Africa first started six years ago at WCU. A few students from the Honors College had just returned from a trip to South Africa. “After seeing all the poverty in the area, they decided they wanted to help somehow,” Stephanie Eckman, the main coordinator for A.S.A. said. The six students that started Aid to South Africa planned the event to be held outdoors in Farrell Stadium. On the day of the premier of Aid to South Africa, it poured down rain, resulting in very little attendance.
“But they stuck with it and it kept going, and now we are on our sixth year of hosting Aid to South Africa,” Eckman said.
For an event that started off in pouring rain, Aid to South Africa has made an outstanding impact on their cause. Aid to South Africa has raised over $25,000, and has 1,000 to 2,000 people come out to the event every year. “It’s the largest campus and community fundraiser that we have at West Chester University,” Eckman said.
A.S.A has three missions and they are to reduce poverty, provide comfort to AIDS victim and raise awareness about both HIV/AIDS and poverty in South Africa.
“The event that we put on is a fundraiser as well as an awareness raiser so when students and the community come to the event, they will be able to see a bunch of awareness displays, statistics and pictures that the honors students have taken personally on their trips to South Africa,” Eckman said.
For those who attend Aid to South Africa and choose to donate and/or sponsor the event, the money they’ve donated will go to the three beneficiaries that A.S.A has paired up with. Help Ministry Soup Kitchen, one of the beneficiaries, is a home-run soup kitchen managed by Reverend Cecil Begbie. Begbie feeds over six thousand people. Five thousand of those people are from primary schools and 1,000 are unemployed adults on a daily basis. His soup kitchen started in his garage and it still functions from there. The second beneficiary is Sparrow Village, which is the first AIDS orphanage in the world.
“Sparrow Village is a refuge for children who probably don’t know that they are infected with HIV/AIDS, and it gives them a place to live out their final days with friends and in good company,” Eckman said.
The third beneficiary is new to the A.S.A event. Nkosi’s Haven was started by a white South African woman who adopted a child who had been infected with HIV/AIDS named Nkosi.
“She experienced first hand all of the discrimination that he faced and that she faced just from wanting to help him and so once he passed away, she started this group in his honor that serves as a refuge now for mothers and their children,” Eckman said. Eckman also points out that Nkosi’s Haven is a unique organization because it focuses on both the child and the mother infected by HIV/AIDS.
“This year has been incredibly successful with sponsors,” Eckman said.
Aid to South Africa has four levels of sponsorship: $1,000, $500, $250, and $125. This is the biggest year for sponsorship for Aid to South Africa. Aid to South Africa will include plenty of fun and creative games to the event.
“Our games and activities chair is new this year and she is quite creative. She is bringing her expertise in baking into the various games and activities. We’re going to be having a dunk tank, which is new this year; we’ve already gotten Miss WCU, Kristin Hector, to agree to be in it. And we’ll be having other activities like necklace making, henna, face-panting, tie-dying t-shirts and various other things like that,” Eckman said. There will also be a cookie-decorating contest.
Eckman hopes to raise $9,000 this year and get 20 teams registered to walk. So what will students get out of the event?
“I think they’re going to learn a lot. People don’t realize how bad it is because it is just so hard to pinpoint a place to help with so much tragedy going on in the world. But South Africa is a place we have chosen and I think we do a good job in raising awareness,” Eckman said.
Eckman wants to thank her committee chairs for “coming together despite being such a diverse group of people.” She would also like to thank Dr. Dean and Donna Carney for all of their love and support and everyone on the campus and in the community who make the effort to become involved in the cause. Aid to South Africa will be held on Sunday, April 10 from 12p.m. until 6p.m. in Hollinger Field House.
Angela Thomas is a fourth year student majoring in English and with a minor in web technology. She can be reached at AT683005@wcupa.edu.