February 7, 2011
On returning from a month-long aid trip to his home town in Nigeria, Seaside resident Richard Anyanwu feels euphoric. "It gave me a sense of revelation in knowing the reason why I am here today. It gives me a sense of purpose," he says. Anyanwu, who runs the nonprofit Medical and Humanitarian Aid for Africa (MAHAFA) with his wife, Gertrude, out of their garage, returned from a semi-annual medical aid trip to Nigeria, where he and a team of volunteers dispensed free medications to 983 individuals.
Anyanwu launched the organization in 2001 after his mother died of a stroke. Ten years later, Anyanwu conducted his highest profile trip yet, receiving media mentions in Nigeria on radio and in print.
Diagnosing chronic, untreated conditions was the focus of the trip. "You can see them come alive again," Anyanwu said, remarking on generalized weakness and tiredness, symptoms associated with hypertension. Some blood pressure numbers were so alarming his team of four volunteer doctors and 10 nurses would ask, "How come these people are still alive?" Anwanyu says. "No clinician [in the United States] would see you with this high blood pressure and send you home that day. I came to the conclusion that these people are stronger than we are here."
Returning home to his full time nursing position at CHOMP, Anyanwu is already at work on his future plans for the organization, and hopes to eventually earn a living from MAHAFA. For now, he and his wife pay out of pocket to cover part of the cost of each trip, but that could change "if we get lucky and get a corporate sponsor."
Not even two weeks after returning to Seaside and five months before his next trip to Nigeria, Anyanwu was shopping for Vitamin C pills at Costco.
"If you wait until the last day, they're not going to be on sale," he says.