Charity event highlights battle against a gruesome practice
Blue and red chalk writing -- "Karibu Karibu Vicky!" -- marked the steps leading up to the Barcroft Community House in Arlington. It means "Welcome Welcome Vicky!" in Swahili, the official language of Tanzania, where journalist-turned-humanitarian Vicky Ntetema was born and raised.
A 2008 BBC investigative report by Ntetema exposed a gruesome black market in Tanzania in which body parts of people with albinism are traded. The report recently earned her a Courage in Journalism award from the International Women's Media Foundation.
Ntetema, now the executive director of Under the Same Sun, an albinism advocacy nonprofit based in Canada, was honored at a recent fundraiser hosted by Asante Mariamu, a nonprofit created as a direct response to Ntetema's report.
People with albinism are born with little or no pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair, making them susceptible to skin cancer and visual impairment.
Ntetema's undercover reporting revealed that witch doctors in East Africa use the body parts to make potions that they claim will bring wealth and good fortune.
One of Ntetema's stories highlighted Mariamu Staford, a woman with albinism whose arms were cut off by mercenaries involved in the trade.
Through donations and clothing sales at the event, Asante Mariamu, which means "Thank you, Mariamu" in Swahili, raised $4,000, which will support programming, assist Staford in paying for her health needs and help a sun clinic in Malawi.
A middle school in Vestal, N.Y., heard about the organization's efforts and raised $1,000. Asante Mariamu presented Ntetema with the check to buy new sewing machines for Staford. The organization, which already donated prosthetic arms for her, wanted her to continue with her interest in sewing and knitting.
Staford, 29, who is in a trade school in Tanzania, wants to run her own sewing and knitting business.
Mariamu "said her whole goal was to hug her son again," said Susan DuBois, the organization's executive director. "We gave her arms ... now she can use them to also knit hats and gloves and gain economic independence."
-- Vanessa Mizell