Cieu Lan Dong is dedicated to improving the lives of HIV-positive people in Botswana as well as helping the country’s growing population of AIDS orphans. At the age of 15, Cieu served as an assistant in a Botswana Harvard Partnership survey of HIV-infected mothers. The results opened her eyes to the country’s chronic poverty and poor health and compelled her to work to change these conditions.
Although many of the results shocked her, Cieu was especially distraught by the high rate on unemployment among the participants. She thought the upcoming generation could benefit greatly from vocational guidance and training. Soon, Cieu began working with Stepping Stones International, an after-school center that helps teenage AIDS orphans develop critical job skills and maintain physical and mental health. With her perseverance and talent, she raised more than $25,000 for the center and plans on raising more for the children in the near future.
The health status of the women Cieu interviewed also left a deep impression. She was intrigued by the women’s low rate of post-pregnancy multivitamin consumption and promptly began to investigate the benefits of a government-led distribution program. After thoroughly researching the benefits of multivitamin consumption by HIV patients, Cieu met with several of the country’s public health officials to advocate for widespread distribution of multivitamins.
She is now working with the Public Health Department in Botswana as they adopt her recommendation to prescribe multivitamins to all HIV positive persons. This recommendation will become part of the Nutritioni HIV Guidelines. This summer, the Botswana Harvard Partnership implemented a survey that Cieu helped design and she hopes will yield more insight into the health needs of HIV patients.
Cieu’s last venture in Botswana was a two-month exchange program at the Maru-a-Pula (MAP) School, where she volunteered at several local orphanages and even helped one start a new library with donated books from American schools. She returned with a renewed love for Botswana and awe-inspiring enthusiasm for the work that lies ahead.