African Student Union Hosts Speaker to Rally Young People for Community Outreach

Oby Obyerodhyambo wants youth to reach out and respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Obyerodhyambo, who has worked in Kenya for over 20 years, will be speaking on “Public Health and the Role of Young People in Effecting Behavioral Change in Outreach Communities” at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Kemper Auditorium. The African Student Union (ASU) is hosting the presentation. “[Obyerodhyambo] is getting youth to react to the AIDS epidemic in Africa at the moment, and since our community has so many youths, we thought it was important to have such a person come to talk to us,” said Noelina Nakiguli ’09, President of ASU. She added, “Maybe he will say something to stimulate our community…and get us to be more active regarding this situation.” Elly Nyamwaya, Instructor in English and Faculty Advisor to ASU, said that Obyerodhyambo will speak about community outreach. Obyerodhyambo will also discuss “how organizations, especially the ones that are known as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), work to effect behavioral change in outreach communities,” said Nyamwaya. He acts as the Kenya-based coordinator of Scenarios From Africa, a project that solicits scripts about HIV/AIDS and then uses the selected scripts to create short films promoting public health. Nyamwaya said, “I think the conversation that he’s going to have will most definitely broaden out to include aspects like HIV/AIDS, and how tools such as theatre can be used in affecting behavioral change.” “What I’d like him to address specifically is how young people in a community like ours can be engaged in projects that bring about changes in outreach communities. I think that’s a discussion that I’d like to see evolving out of his speech,” said Nyamwaya. Obyerodhyambo’s speech will be the kick-off for the first Spring African Festival, which the African Student Union will host on May 9. Nakiguli said, “We wanted to have a big day where the whole community could come and celebrate with us our culture.” The Spring African Festival will offer a variety of activities, including a dance performance, a fashion show and a food festival. The festival might feature another speaker, Michael Fairbanks, Co-Founder of SEVEN, a foundation dedicated to utilizing technology such as movies and books to find entrepreneurial ways to resolve worldwide poverty. Obyerodhyambo is currently touring around the United States for four months to spread awareness about public health. When Nyamwaya learned that Obyerodhyambo was going to take a four-month study tour, which began in January 2009 and will end in May 2009, Nyamwaya invited him to speak at Andover. Nyamwaya said that he chose to book Obyerodhyambo for Andover because of his extensive experience living and working in Africa. “[Obyerodhyambo] has more of a different perspective on the [HIV] disease,” said Nakiguli. “It will be good to listen to that and also the different ways that he thinks that we as youths in America can effect change in the community in Africa.” Nyamwaya met Obyerodhyambo before he became a teacher at Andover. Nyamwaya said that he attended many of Obyerodhyambo’s theatrical performances earlier in his career. “Later on, [Obyerodhyambo] got involved in using theatre as a [means] for community development, and so I came to interact with him very much,” he continued. Since Obyerodhyambo is on a study tour sponsored by Emory University, Phillips Academy will not have to compensate him for his presentation. “Probably what the African Student Union will do is to give him some kind of honorarium after he has given his speech, but it’s nothing formal,” said Nyamwaya. Obyerodhyambo has been educated in theatre, education and public health. He holds a Bachelors degree in Education from Kenyatta University and a Masters degree in Literature from the University of Nairobi. He also “uses traditional African storytelling skills in sharing his knowledge and vast experience in public service,” according to the ASU’s event brochure. Oberyodhyambo is currently a Senior Technical Advisor for Prevention Programs at Family Health International.