U.S. Delegation to West Africa
February 9-21, 2004

Participant Bios

Delegates who traveled to both Senegal and Nigeria
High school senior, Reality Check - Dutchess County (NY)
Jessica is an 18-year-old high school student who has been involved in Reality Check for 4 years. She is co-chair of Reality Check's International Action Committee. Recently, she was part of a youth delegation to the 12th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Helsinki, Finland and the U.S. National Tobacco or Health Conference in Boston, MA.
Baltimore City Health Department & Secretary, Smoke Free Maryland (MD)

Theresa Ogide-Alaeze was born and raised in Rivers State, Nigeria. She completed high school and Nursing School in Nigeria, before coming to the U.S. 16 years ago, where she obtained her Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Towson State University, Maryland. Theresa has 18 years of experience working in the field of healthcare. She became involved on tobacco control/substance abuse initiative in 1996 as an intern through Baltimore County Office of Substance abuse and the Good Health Center. She joined the Health Department in 1999, to work on HIV/AIDS and Disease Prevention and in 2001, moved to manage the Tobacco Use Prevention and Smoking Cessation Program. Theresa goes back to Nigeria at least once or twice a year to engage in humanitarian work at the grass root level. As a U.S. tobacco advocate, she is interested transfering some of her skills and knowledge back to Africa, especially Nigeria, where awareness and education is minimal, and almost non-existent in the rural communities.
     Through the Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control program, Theresa hopes to heighten advocacy efforts in both the U.S. and Nigeria; bridge the gap that exists in the area of lack of awareness, knowledge and education as it pertains to dangers associated with the use of tobacco products and exposure to secondhand smoke; and recruit and retain youth tobacco control advocates. She is particularly interested in raising awareness about smokeless cigarettes, such as snuff -- the most common form of tobacco product used by women in the rural areas of Nigeria.

College student & Co-coordinator, Reality Check-Monroe County (NY)

I’m a 20-year old college junior at the State University of New York College at Brockport, majoring in Health Science and International Studies. I’ve been hooked on tobacco control since high school, where I started working with youth prevention programming after winning a grant from a local coalition. I brought this love to college, where I worked as an intern for the University of Rochester’s Smoking Research Program. Currently, I’m one of 11 young adults nationwide on the American Legacy Foundation’s Youth Advisory Panel, and also serve as a youth action trainer for the State of New Hampshire tobacco control program’s Youth Network Opposing Tobacco, as well as a co-coordinator for the Monroe County (NY) Reality Check program.
      I’m excited to be participating in this trip because my eventual goals are to join the Peace Corps and get a degree in International Public Health. I’m keeping my focus on tobacco—because I feel the more great work we do and awareness we raise here in the US regarding the tobacco industry, the more it takes them outside our borders, where knowledge and resources are not as plentiful and the greatest manipulations take place.

Coordinator, Reality Check - Wayne County (NY)

Dave Walling is a retired middle school principal and school counselor, who has worked with youth for his entire professional life. He has been the Reality Check Coordinator for Wayne County youth for the past 3 years and has been selected as a Steering Committee member for his region of 9 counties. In this role, he helps youth develop programs and presentations to get this message across to their fellow youth. One of Dave's goals for this trip is to set up a youth to youth communication link between his New York youth and those of Senegal and Nigeria so that they may mutually support each other in their anti tobacco industry efforts. David is proficient in French.
Coordinator, Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control (DC)

Anna White's interest in international tobacco control was sparked during the 7 months she spent in Senegal through the Minnesota Studies in International Development program in 1996. While there, she was appalled by excessive amount of tobacco advertising, and in particular, advertisements and promotions which implied that "smoking was the American thing to do" -- through the liberal use of U.S. city skylines, red/white/blue color schemes, American flags, sweepstakes to win trips to the U.S., white people, and slogans like "The Real American Taste!" Many Senegalese she spoke with refused to believe that not all Americans smoke!
     Upon graduation from the University of Delaware in 1997, Anna returned to Senegal for 10 months, as a Fulbright Fellow, to research the tobacco industry's marketing and promotional strategies in the country, as well as the Senegalese tobacco control movement. In 1998, she reported on Philip Morris' removal of all its advertising in Dakar during President Clinton's visit to the country (with an entourage of 250 journalists). This example was later highlighted in a Florida truth campaign counter-advertising television spot.
      For the past 3 years, Anna has been the Coordinator of Essential Action's Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control program. She is proficient in Wolof and French.
Delegate who traveled just to Senegal
Director, San Francisco African American Tobacco Free Project (CA)

Writer, activist, workshop presenter, San Francisco African American Tobacco Free Project Director Carol McGruder has ten years of experience in tobacco control advocacy. Ms. McGruder is experienced in the fields of health education and community capacity building. She has served as a Project Director and consultant on a variety of projects in the Public Health arena. Having lived and traveled extensively in France and West Africa she is acutely aware of the effects of the globalization of Big Tobacco and is particularly concerned about the predatory Tobacco Industry activities that are taking place in developing countries. She has a passion for forging international tobacco control alliances. Carol is fluent in French.
Delegates who traveled just to Nigeria
Denver Public Health (CO)

I was born in Nigeria, but I now live in the United States in Denver, Colorado. I work at Denver Public Health, which is part of Denver Health & Hospital in the Tobacco Control Program. I have been with Denver Health for about 4 1/2 years. I am an advocate against smoking and I work with the community to educate them on how to quit smoking cigarettes. My job requires to to deal a lot with the public, informaing them about the harmful consequences that tobacco products can have on them, their families, and others, e.g. through secondhand smoke. We set up booths at public functions such as health fairs, schools, parks, and hospitals. We also offer quit smoking classes. And we are involved in trying to get restaurants and other public places to ban smoking in their facilities. Being from Nigeria, and having extensive experience in community work, I believe I will be a great asset to the U.S. tobacco control delegation to the country.
Coordinator, Reality Check - Chattauqua County (NY)

Ken Dahlgren is a lifelong resident of New York and has been a tobacco control advocate for the last 8 years. First, as a County Legislator, he sponsored and advocated for smoke-free workplace legislation. He then realized the need to get involved in grass-roots advocacy against the tobacco industry. For the last three years he has been a county coordinator with Reality Check, New York State’s youth-led, adult-supported action project against the tobacco industry’s manipulative marketing tactics. Ken also co-chairs Reality Check’s International Action Committee which exists to build partnerships with tobacco control advocates around the world, educate U.S. advocates about global tobacco issues, and help provide support for tobacco control advocacy in the developing world. Ken is excited about this opportunity to strengthen New York’s partnerships with West African tobacco control advocates and to witness first-hand the obstacles they face as they battle tobacco in Africa. He firmly believes these types of partnerships are the only way that the influence of Big Tobacco can be defeated.