BY TRONE DOWD
Southeast Queens state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) recently took his career in serving the people abroad, visiting the country of Nigeria in a crusade to help those less fortunate.
During a press conference on Friday in front of St. Clement Pope Church in South Ozone Park, Sanders delved into more detail about his trip to Africa and what it means for his constituents.
“Our district has been enlarged,” Sanders said. “The nations of the world have come to Queens. And among those nations that we speak of is the powerhouse of Africa—Nigeria. It is one of the most populated, diverse and interesting. But even though they are doing well in many respects, there are parts that can use help. There are parts that cry out for missions of mercy.”
While in Nigeria, Sanders worked with the non-profit organization, the When In Need Foundation (WIN), to fulfill those humanitarian needs. WIN works to help countries around the world with an exhaustive list of efforts, such as bringing crucial medical supplies overseas and providing shelter and other forms of support to orphanages, the homeless, the disabled and the elderly.
Sanders and WIN went to Africa with 30 doctors with medicines that ward off illnesses such as malaria, typhoid, cholera, diabetes and high blood pressure. They also provided eyeglasses to those who had visual impairments, in addition to helping those suffering from blindness and glaucoma. More than 3,000 people, ages 18 to 96, were given medical examinations. More than 600 children also received care during the trip.
Sanders said that both he and people in his district are believers in helping others.
“Here in this district, as we grow, we believe in giving to those who have less,” Sanders said. “We are a generous district and we believe that we are our brother’s keeper. If there is a way that we as a district can respond, we will respond.”
The senator said that his reason for taking the trip stemmed from seeing how the world responded to the needs of his constituents during Hurricane Sandy five years ago.
“We were hit hard by Sandy,” he recalled. “We received help from the four corners of the globe. We will never forget those days and we look forward to aiding others.”
At the press conference, Sanders was joined by African dignitaries—Kate Igbodike, consul in charge of information, culture and education for the Nigerian Consulate General in New York, and Oheneba Boakye, the younger brother of Nana Aakuffo Addo, who is the president of Ghana.
Boakye said he saw the consequences that the absence of common medicine has on people. His brother died years ago from an illness that he described as easily curable.
“In Africa, in general and as a whole, we need help and we need people to speak—because if you’re quiet, no one is going to hear about it,” Boakye said.
Sanders’ work in Nigeria earned him the prestigious title of “chief,” which was bestowed upon him by four Nigerian kings who had received word of the senator’s visit. Sanders said that he took the honor seriously and has taken it upon himself to sustain the relationship with Nigeria and other African nations. Now, he wants the district to join in on the effort.
“This honor means I need to step up and make sure that my people over there are taken care of too,” he said.
As part of this effort, Sanders said that he will donate used books from his district’s schools to help education efforts for youths in Africa.
“The life of a book is never done, especially if we can take that and turn it into knowledge over in Nigeria,” he said.
“What America wastes could actually feed the world.”