The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, May 22, 2005  

She’s Not Forgotton

A week and a half ago I blogged about an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a young Ugandan girl, Jennifer Anyango, written by Carolyn Davis of the newspaper’s editorial board (“About Uganda: A Sewing Machine is All,” May 11, 2005).

In a follow-up report in Friday’s Inquirer Davis wrote of the paper’s recent series on Uganda generally, and about Anyango specifically (“Readers Reach Out”):

Response was greatest to the story of 14-year-old Jennifer Anyango, whom I met in a displaced person’s camp. Horrible burns to her face have imprisoned this young girl. She is trapped by the stigma of her disfigurement and by the stinging in her eyes when the wind blows.

I’m asking readers who want to send money to be patient. Let’s hold donations until we have a direct and certain way to help Jennifer.

Like bringing her here for surgery. Some of us are trying to do just that.

Davida Berger of Philadelphia has joined with a lifelong friend, Barbara Lichtman-Tayar, of Huntingdon Valley, who has strong advocacy and organizing skills. They said they’ve contacted an attorney who has handled legal cases abroad and a plastic surgeon willing to donate services. Their goal: Get Jennifer here for treatment. (Davida can be reached at 215-886-2203.)

I have gotten [sic] touching offers of donations from single mothers, grandfathers and others, which [sic] could easily pay for Jennifer and a relative to come to Philadelphia.

Richard E. Caruso, founder and chairman of the Princeton-based Integra Lifesciences Corp., is willing to donate as much of the artificial skin product his company makes as needed. We’re talking about some $30,000 worth of generosity.

I have been talking with a local hospital whose officials have expressed interest in treating Jennifer -- but they want to know more about her medical condition before committing. If that hospital won’t agree, we’ll ask others.

I needed to make sure Jennifer still is where I saw her several months ago in Uganda, and to ask her family if they want our help.

Whom to ask? The best Uganda doer I know -- Abitimo [Rebecca Odongkara]. When I called her last week, she immediately started planning.

She said she’d send one of the staff members from her school on the 60-mile journey from Gulu to Kitgum, on a road that sometimes comes under attack, to look for Jennifer.

If necessary, Abitimo is ready to travel to Kitgum herself to talk to Jennifer’s mother about getting her daughter’s wounds treated.

Once the docs tell me what they need to know, we’ll get Jennifer to a doctor in Uganda for an examination.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah’s office is standing by to help with a visa. I am told an official from a large bank may be willing to help establish an account for Jennifer's trip and treatment. We would need lodging for her.

At the very least, I’d like to see Jennifer attending Abitimo’s school, doing what most kids her age in Uganda do who have not been so visibly scarred by the war.

Helping Jennifer is tangible and decent and right. And helping her just feels more doable than taking on the whole war.

But another reader, Downingtown’s Jessica Ayres, is a 28-year-old college student focused on that broader goal. She plans to launch a petition drive to persuade federal legislators to make the United States the leader in resolving this conflict. Those interested in joining Jessica can reach her at or 484-888-5040.

Thank God some little bit of good may come of all of this.

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