Posted July 6, 2017.
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.