COPH videographer takes passion for public health to Kenya

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Until just a few months ago, the people of Masala, Kenya, had no potable water.

“They would have to walk seven miles to get drinkable water,” said Oddi Diaz, a USF College of Public Health videographer in the Office of Educational Technology and Assessment.

Diaz, who has been with the COPH for just over a year and who earned his undergraduate degree in digital cinematography from Full Sail University in Orlando, visited Masala for 10 days last October with his friend, David Alfonseca, president of Maranatha Kids International, a Christian nonprofit relief organization that has done work in Kenya.

“Before the availability of potable water, the people would collect water from dirty ponds—when the ponds had any water at all,” Diaz noted. “But we were able to erect a water-collection tank and run 1,000 meters of pipe from the structure to a compound where people now come to get water once or twice a week. When you see those smiling faces watching their containers fill with water, that’s priceless.”

The people of Masala, Kenya, gather drinking water. (Photo by Diaz)

Developing a viable system for clean drinking water was just one agenda item for Diaz and fellow volunteers during their time in Masala, an area of the world that Diaz says has many challenges.

“There are no jobs there, no source of income,” Diaz explained.

In addition to laying pipes for the water project, Diaz and fellow volunteers replaced termite-ravaged beams in the community’s church while also adding a concrete foundation.

Repairs were made to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Masala.
In addition to religious services, the church is a gathering place for a weekly lunch program Diaz and other volunteers help support. (Photo by Diaz)

Diaz—who’s been to Africa 10 times now on a variety of charitable missions—raised money for the trip with private donations from friends, family and congregants of the Pinellas Spanish Seventh Day Adventist Church in St. Petersburg. All in all, $7,000 was raised for the service projects and travel expenses.

Diaz has plans of returning in the summer to work on a much-needed orphanage.

Oddi Diaz (back row, middle) and volunteers pose with some of the children of Masala, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Diaz)

“The region has more than 50 percent of its population suffering with HIV/AIDS,” he explained. “Many of the women are widows who do not have the resources necessary to provide for their children, so they abandon them on the street. As such, there are hundreds of orphans in the community. The goal is to bring as many volunteers as possible to help us build the shelters and other infrastructure the Masala community so desperately needs.”

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health