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Bentley Goes Red for Africa
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
A student-led fund drive has brought new color to the lives of people in remote villages of Africa. The second annual Bentley Goes Red for Africa campaign raised $4,700 to benefit the Mmofra Trom Center and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The proceeds came from the sale of red T-shirts designed by Bunami Tees, a company run by Jason Feldman ’08. The stock of 750 shirts, priced at $10 each, sold out in a matter of days, as did 200 Bentley dog tags; students, faculty and staff wore the shirts on December 6, 2007. The campaign culminated with an evening of Ghanaian food and AIDS education, as well as performances of African dance by the Bentley Step Squad and Harvard University Pan-African Dance Association.
Vinay Gokaldas ’10 spearheaded the Bentley project for a second consecutive year. His inspiration was a campus lecture in 2006 by the founder of HUGS International, which developed the Ghana-based Mmofra Trom Center to house and educate children orphaned by AIDS.
“She wanted these children to have the same opportunity in life as any other child in Ghana,” Gokaldas says of the speaker, Carol Gray. He modeled the Bentley initiative on the international Product Red campaign, whose creators include rocker–activist Bono. The 2006 Bentley Goes Red campaign raised $4,000.
The other founding collaborators were Niyoshi Sanghvi ’08, then-president of the South Asian Student Organization; and management professor Diane Kellogg, who played a leading role in establishing the economic development partnership between Bentley and the Mmofra Trom Center.
Each March and August, students can take part in a short-term course taught in Ghana that includes a service project at the center.
Inspired perhaps by the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” the 2007 Go Red project rallied support from seven student organizations: the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, Black United Body, Association of Chinese Students, International Students Association, Portuguese Across Continents, Student Government Association, and South Asian Student Association.
“I thought the campaign was a niche that would attract a small group of students, but the support was overwhelming,” says Gokaldas, who serves as vice president of the South Asian Student Association.
Those supporters include Hieng Chhua ’10. “AIDS is a worldwide problem, not just designated to one race,” observes Chhua, who heads the Association of Chinese Students and urges students to get involved regardless of their ethnic affiliation.
Gokaldas has a personal interest in that part of the world. Indian by nationality, he was born and raised in Ghana.
“One of the biggest issues preventing Ghana from becoming a very prosperous nation is the fact that skilled people are leaving the country for places with greater opportunity,” he explains. “It’s my obligation to spread interest, investment and tourism to the region as much as I can.”
The campaign theme – Wear a T-shirt, Save a Life – proved to be much more than a catchy slogan. The funds raised will help build a dormitory for 50 children at the Mmofra Trom Center.
Alison Davis-Blake, the former business school dean at the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, was inaugurated as the eighth president of Bentley University in a ceremony attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the extended Bentley community.