UWF alum heading to Nigeria to offer HIV/AIDS education
Wrapping up four years in a place that has shaped and helped her create her passion, Mary Ann Kaiser, a recent University of West Florida graduate, is not only preparing for the culmination of her undergraduate years, she is truly getting ready to face the world. Ready to go on June 23, Kaiser will travel to Owerri, Nigeria to assist in HIV/AIDS education and other health-related projects through Global Christian Ministries.
“After hearing about a friend’s experience volunteering in Africa and watching ‘Hotel Rwanda,’ I knew immediately it was something I wanted to do,” said Kaiser. “I really want to plant a seed and know that something has grown since I’ve been there. I can’t wait to meet the people of the area and to experience their culture. I want to learn from the way they live and that excites me more than anything else to see how I can fit into their world.”
Through speaking with church services, organizations and youth groups, Kaiser has managed to raise $16,000 since December 2007 for her trip, which she will use to live in Nigeria and put towards developing a program to teach local leaders in the community about AIDS education. She will also help with health clinics in the community, trying to build a health education and economic development department.
Kaiser, who has been blogging about the experience since last year, has written about the ups and downs of preparing for such an experience and plans to continue sharing her experience once it has started.
“There’s definitely no way to be prepared for the culture shock,” said Kaiser. “There are just some things you can never be prepared for, but I passionately believe in what I’m going to be doing, so I’m ready for it and I can’t wait.”
Kaiser has been blown away by the support and encouragement she’s received from not only the organizations she’s reached out to, but from UWF students and faculty. After hearing about her preparations to go to Nigeria, a fellow classmate garnered the support of students and professors sending out a list of the essential things that Kaiser needed before she leaves in June.
“I’d be walking down the hallway and someone would say ‘Hey Mary I have batteries for you!'” said Kaiser. “It’s such a close knit department; it’s just what they do.” A Pensacola native, Kaiser received her bachelor’s degree in organizational communication with a minor in social welfare and a certificate in leadership. Kaiser hopes to pursue a master’s degree when she returns.
“My major has shaped me in so many different ways,” said Kaiser. “My professors have opened my eyes to experiencing other people’s worlds. I’ve been taught at UWF to think for myself and not go along with the stereotypes and stigmas that follow certain groups or cultures.”
Find out more about UWF’s Communication Arts Program at uwf.edu/commarts. To read more about Kaiser’s experience, visit ajourneytobehad.blogspot.com.
By Megan Tyson, University Marketing Communications