Sam Stupak

Miami University students will have the opportunity to learn about and help improve Africa-without having to travel across the ocean.

Malawi, Tanzania, and Nigeria are among the African countries to be spotlighted Sept. 26 at the upcoming “Speaking of Africa … an Africa awareness event.”

The Ambassadors for Children organization and the African School Advancement Program have planned presentations by lecturers and student members as well as pictures and African food for the event, to be held from 1-5 p.m. in Shriver Multipurpose Rooms B and C.

The forum will include two speakers from Miami: Adetutu Abatan, a faculty member in the English department, and Oliver Mogga, a graduate student. Abatan is from Nigeria, while Mogga is from Sudan, and both will discuss the cultures of their respective countries.

According to senior Marissa Hirsh, president of the Miami chapter of Ambassadors for Children (AFC), the forum’s goal is too “shed a positive light on Africa.”

Hirsh and Meredith Poff, president of the African School Advancement Program (ASAP), call the forum an awareness event and hope that it will get more students interested in Africa.

Although the two speakers were brought in by the groups, the forum will also allow members of AFC and the ASAP who traveled to Africa over the summer to speak.

“We’re concentrating on the students who went,” Hirsh said. “The idea is to get a conversation started about why did they go, and what should we know.”

The forum is meant to be an informal place for people to come and talk about anything African with the students and speakers.

“It will help them look beyond what the media portrays,” said Paula Saine, an associate professor in the department of teacher education with experience in international teaching. “(The forum will help students to develop) global literacy and global education … and broaden their perspective on education.”

Last summer, members of ASAP traveled to Tanzania, while AFC students went to Malawi, Tanzania’s southern neighbor.

The African School Advancement Program was founded by Miami University students in 2004, and Poff explained that the organizations goal is twofold.

“(The goal of ASAP is) to advance cross-cultural education at Miami University and to advance education in sub-Saharan Africa,” Poff said.

In practice, this means that ASAP brings speakers and events to Miami, and uses any proceeds and donations raised to enhance curriculums in African schools.

Last summer, 10 Miami students traveled to Tanzania to work in a variety of ways, from teaching to delivering supplies, to working with a local non-governmental organization to improve schools in the country.

Ambassadors for Children is a nonprofit based out of Indianapolis. Their first chapter was founded in Miami University in 2006, according to Hirsh. The organization aims to help children around the world, and each chapter focuses on different countries. The Miami chapter focuses on Malawi, Guatemala and El Salvador.

On their trip to Malawi, one of the poorest nations in the world, AFC students worked to improve the lives of children in a variety of ways. They distributed items such as school supplies, hygiene materials and mosquito nets. They worked in schools and orphanages to teach children reading and health. Overall, they reached more than 2,700 children, according to Hirsh.

Orphanages are a common sight in Malawi, Hirsh said, explaining that the country has been ravaged both by HIV and malaria, and many children have been left alone. But the impression that Africa is nothing but disease is one of the stigmas that the groups hope to address with the forum.

“If you come for the free food and you fall in love with the pictures, that’s great,” Poff said. “If you come and you don’t like it, that’s fine too. We’re just trying to keep the door open.”