By Sandra Bienkowski
Elizabeth Ndubisi-Ukandu knows what it feels like to be powerless. When her mother failed to give birth to a male heir, she, her sisters, and her mother were cut off from her extended family in Nigeria. It’s an all-too-common occurrence and one that has driven her to spend the last several years absorbed in projects that will have a positive effect on the lives of women and children in Africa.
“I am determined to do whatever I can to assist women and their children, to empower them to redirect their destiny and self-worth,” explains the Ph.D. in Public Health student. “I have always dreamed of giving back. When you empower women, you empower a community.”
Ndubisi-Ukandu has put Walden’s social change mission into action on a global scale: With her husband, Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration student Ahamefula Ukandu, she established Social Changers without Borders in February 2010.
The pair also invited social change agent and 2011 Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) graduate Dr. Vilma Cabán-Vázquez to join the executive board of directors, along with 2010 Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration graduate Dr. Sekela Mungai-Coles, Ph.D. in Public Heath student Marcia Castano, and faculty member Dr. Tom Diamond.
Social Changers without Borders now has chapters in all 50 U.S. states and in Africa. Its more than 300 members partner with on-the-ground aid organizations to offer public health education and programs to underserved communities. The organization also conducts research on how to eradicate preventable diseases such as malaria, dysentery, typhoid, smallpox, and polio in these communities.
Recent projects include traveling to Africa to organize aid for girls who have fled child marriages, constructing wells to supply safe drinking water, and partnering with Equality Now to conduct program evaluations to assess the achievements of grassroots organizations that work to end female genital mutilation.
“I believe in our mission,” says Cabán-Vázquez, who is now a fundraising coordinator and serves on the foundation’s executive board. “Little by little, we are seeing the fruits of our labor.”
The executive board consists of Walden alumni, students, and faculty members who guide the direction and vision of the organization. Board members also develop innovative ideas to offer aid to international communities. All alumni are invited to join a chapter or committee, participate in threaded discussions, and send proposals for projects. The organization is seeking scholarly field researchers across a wide range of disciplines who are interested in both aid- and research-based projects.
“With hundreds of members who have acquired research skills from a master’s to a doctoral level in various fields, Social Changers without Borders is positioned to carve a niche for its unique services in the field of nonprofit volunteerism,” says Ndubisi-Ukandu. “Our goal will always be to support other grassroots organizations with these special skills and, if necessary, become involved directly to effect social change.”
To volunteer to participate in Social Changers without Borders, visit http://waldenics.ning.com. Remember to log your volunteer hours at www.WaldenU.edu/servicenetwork.