Student organization evolves into non-profit serving the people of Tanzania

What began as a student organization has blossomed into a full-blown non-profit organization that provides HIV and sex education to a vast audience ranging from ASU’s own students to impoverished people of Tanzania.

HEAL (Health, Empowerment, Aid, Light) International is an organization based out of ASU’s Biodesign Institute that brings together student volunteers and a board of directors to provide sexual education and HIV prevention services to a wide audience.

Co-founder and Executive Director Damien Salamone said he was inspired to begin HEAL International after traveling to Tanzania with another non-profit organization that provided education about HIV and AIDS.

After seeing the conditions in Tanzania, Salamone said he felt that he had to do everything he could to not only provide education regarding HIV, but also prevention services.

“What people need is sometimes more than just education,” he said. “They need resources to take advantage of the education.”

Since then, HEAL has taken students to serve in Tanzania every summer for the past eight years.

Salamone said his experiences in Tanzania shocked him. In one way, Salamone said he was astounded by the poverty and terrible conditions that prevail in Tanzania, but also by the incredible kindness of the people there.

“They’re such beautiful, friendly, warm people who are excited to create international partnerships and teach us as well as learn from us,” he said.

Executive Administrator Megan Allen agreed that the warm attitude of the Tanzanian people is truly amazing.

“Tanzanian people are loving and warm and giving,” she said. “I get to be there and work through things with them and make sure they get all the health care services they need, and all the love and support they need.”

Allen said this goal of providing people with the care and services they need extends to the local community in Arizona as well.

HEAL not only provides sexual wellness education on ASU’s campus, but also partners with StreetlightUSA, which has a safe house in Guadalupe, to empower young women who have been victims of sex trafficking.

Allen said HEAL works with these young women to educate them on how to protect their bodies, have a positive self-image and maintain healthy relationships.

President of the Board at HEAL Kirk Baxter said all of these outreach efforts are funded privately by the board of directors, or through Aunt Rita’s Foundation.

“It’s a great untold story,” he said. “It started out as a literal class at ASU ... that’s evolved into this NGO in Africa.”

Related Links:

History of ASU Health Services

ASU students educate homeless about health, opportunities new clinic will provide

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