Bawa Health Initiative fundraiser held by CWU professor provides healthcare to African village

Katherine Camarata, Lead Editor


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  • The TusuyPeru dance team led by Dr. Fabiola Serra Fuertes performed throughout the event.

  • The TusuyPeru dance team led by Dr. Fabiola Serra Fuertes performed throughout the event.

  • Dr. Dondji’s students volunteered to serve the dinner at the fundraiser.

  • Dr. Dondji gives a speech thanking his students for their help.

  • Colorful regalia was auctioned off to donate funds to Bawa.

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Technicolor regalia, cultural dance performances and an African feast awaited over 170 attendees of the annual Bawa Health Initiative (BHI) Fundraiser dinner on May 20 held at a private party barn in Ellensburg.

The Bawa Health Initiative was founded in 2005 by Dr. Blaise Dondji and Dr. Dennis Richardson to provide healthcare, bed nets and other medical supplies to Dondji’s home village in Bawa, Cameroon, Africa. After Dondji’s mother died during childbirth due to a lack of healthcare in Bawa, Dondji was inspired to provide support to his village. Since its foundation, the BHI has built the first clinic in Bawa, funded an ambulance and currently employs full-time doctors and nurses. See past Observer coverage “It takes a village: Dr. Blaise Dondji provides healthcare to his home in Bawa, Cameroon.

Dr. Blaise Dondji, professor of immunology and biology at CWU, said of the dinner: “I’m hoping that this event will help the Ellensburg community to see beyond themselves, to think about what they can do for the lives of their neighbors. They don’t have to change people in Bawa, but even their neighbors here in Ellensburg or the U.S. Go make somebody else smile. That’s my hope.”

Dondji additionally expressed his aspirations and goals for the Bawa Health Initiative.

“My hope for the future of the Bawa Health Initiative is to expand the Sophie Awounkeu Community Health Centre, provide specialized care such as women’s health, pediatrics and others,” Dondji said. “The long term goal is to have a self-sustainable health center.” 

Dr. Dondji’s students and Premed Club members volunteered to serve the meal to guests, who dined and watched various colorful dance performances by the TusuyPeru dance group led by Dr. Fabiola Serra Fuertes from the CWU Department of Biological Sciences. The meal included chicken legs, peanut sauce with mushrooms and rice, fufu, spinach and a special hot sauce, all curated by Dr. Dondji’s wife, Francine.

Guests participated in a silent auction, and eventually in a not-so-silent auction, where items like hand-carved wooden masks and the sauces served with dinner were sold to the highest bidders for donations.

Madison Wilson, a junior majoring in biomedicine who served the meal, said she enjoyed seeing Dr. Dondji move through the event.

“I love seeing all the different people that are here and seeing Dr. Dondji interact with everybody,” Wilson said. “I think it’s really cool to see him in this kind of light, because I’ve only seen him on campus, and everyone seems so happy and full of love.”

Sophia Hickey, a freshman in ecology who also served the meal, shared similar sentiments: “There’s a really good community vibe that’s here, everyone is here for a good cause to help, and it’s so cool to see Dr. Dondji not at school teaching us. He’s in his element here.”

Francine Dondji, Dr. Dondji’s wife, could be seen dancing with the performers and chatting from table to table, greeting guests with high spirits.

“This Bawa dinner for me is bringing the community together, it’s like a melting pot having all of those families together, the friends and colleagues,” Francine said. “When they come through the door, I look at their faces, they are happy. Of course for the food, but to be together. They are happy to come for a cause.”