Join us in congratulating Dr. Andolino in being named the American Dental Association’s 2016 Humanitarian of the year! Located below you will find an excerpt from the ADA’s full press release, related to Dr. Andolino’s amazing work as a Humanitarian.
Rusinga Island, Nyanza province, Kenya — Dr. Frank C. Andolino II first heard about Rusinga Island while scaling the largest mountain in Africa.
“After having spent three weeks extracting teeth in a remote Tanzanian village, I climbed Kilimanjaro,” said Dr. Andolino, while being interviewed from his Manhattan orthodontic practice. “En route to the summit I met a Peace Corps volunteer who was working with a small youth group in western Kenya.”
It was on that island in 2003 where Dr. Andolino decided to help the people of that remote migrant fishing village. Two years later, he co-founded Kageno, a New York City-based nonprofit operating two community development projects in Kenya and a third in Rwanda. The three projects are on the way to sustainability, serving more than 24,000 people who before had only known devastating poverty.
In recognition of his more than three decades of service, which includes his establishment and continuing commitment to Kageno, Dr. Andolino has been named the 2016 ADA Humanitarian Award recipient. He will be honored during ADA 2016 — America’s Dental Meeting Oct. 20-25 in Denver.
“As a privileged American, it’s my responsibility to help others,” said Dr. Andolino. “If we all played a small part in helping those less fortunate, this planet would be a substantially more balanced and healthy place for everyone.”
A place of hope
The name “Kageno” translates to “a place of hope” in the Kenyan dialect of Dholuo, but when Dr. Andolino first saw Rusinga Island, hope was hard to come by. He had been on many humanitarian missions before, to many parts of the world, but the destitution he experienced in that village in Kenya was unlike any he had ever seen.
“There is need in every community, but the levels of poverty are drastically different in the regions where Kageno’s projects reside,” he said. “The communities have little to no access to health care, no safe drinking water, no electricity, and no proper sanitation. These remote locations, where the vast majority of the population are subsistence farmers, are some of the poorest communities in the poorest countries on the planet.”
In addition to the lack of resources, Rusinga Island was at the epicenter of Kenya’s AIDS epidemic, where four in 10 people were infected in the community. Also rampant were diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, typhoid, bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and cholera, he said.
To make matters worse, the island is located on Lake Victoria, which was under siege by pollution, including the dumping of raw sewage and other toxic chemicals. Since the community on Rusinga Island was almost completely dependent on the lake for income generation and as a primary source of water, the devastating pollution caused eight in 10 people to be unemployed, Dr. Andolino said.
Hungry children foraged for food in piles of trash and ate dirt to quell their hunger. Desperate women and girls prostituted themselves to predatory migrant fisherman in exchange for fish, exacerbating the already accelerated spread of HIV/AIDS. The area was void of foliage, stripped by a population unable to afford any other form of cooking fuel.
Hands-on help: Dr. Frank Andolino mixes cement for the foundation of a new school built by his nonprofit organization Kageno on Rusinga Island in Kenya.
Dr. Andolino’s Kageno developed programs that would help alleviate the community’s suffering. Kageno set out to provide four pillars of support, and years later, the results are striking as Kageno’s model has been duplicated in two more locations, with Dr. Andolino dedicating much of his life to traveling to Africa. The four pillars with examples of each are:
Ventures: Kageno operates microloan programs, where locals use microloans to fund small enterprises such as selling fish and bicycle repair. Kageno also supports local craftspeople by helping them earn income. In addition to crafts marketed internationally, some products are sold directly to the community. For example, Kageno purchases soap from a local soapmaking collective funded by Kageno. Then, students at the Kageno-built nursery school use the soap.
Health care: Kageno has performed more than 10,000 immunizations. One notable example of the health initiative is the Sue Folk Health Clinic at Kageno Rwanda, which offers pharmacy-supported clinical services for the entire community.
Education: Kageno provides early childhood education for kids ages 3 to 6, and more than 300 children a year receive lessons in English, math, hygiene and art in schools built by Kageno. Additionally, all 2,300 school age children in the community receive a nutritious meal each day. With English now being an official language in Rwanda, Kageno also offers English classes with 85 adults attending class on a regular basis.
Environment: Kageno Rwanda’s water project, for example, provides clean water for more than 10,000 people. In 2011 the system was expanded to provide clean water to two local schools and another 1,600 people. In 2014, with the help of the Peace Corps, the water system was expanded even further.