Virginia Western Professor Helps Those in Need ROANOKE, VA - Ten years ago, Steve Huff became an Associate Professor at Virginia Western Community College. In his time at the college, he has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of students, helping them better themselves and become successes. The impact he has had on his students, however, is not nearly as immense as the thousands of Africans he has helped survive. In the summer of 2003, Huff, never one to stay settled for too long, was traveling across Europe and ended crossing into Africa. What he witnessed would change his life. “It was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was like going back to the 1300’s; these people had absolutely nothing. Everyday for them was just a constant struggle to survive,” said Huff. “I saw a lot of possibilities for making positive changes. This was a land where owning a simple pair of shoes can enhance a child’s chances of surviving to become a teenager ten-fold, yet everyone’s feet were bare.” He returned to Virginia Western and started brainstorming ideas for helping the African people. The fumbled relief efforts of Hurricane Katrina gave him the spark he needed to turn his ideas into action. “I witnessed, along with everyone else, well-known organizations that do a lot of good work, become victims of scandal and corruption in the wake of 9/11, the tsunami relief efforts, and the New Orleans disaster. It got me thinking, ‘why aren’t I doing anything? Maybe I should be.’” Huff concluded, “People are still willing to give to charitable causes; there has just become a trust issue between donators and large-scale non-profit organizations.” In 2005, Huff and his wife Stacey filed for 501(c)(3) status to start their own charitable non-profit organization, Wheels 2 Africa. Their first project took place in 2006 when they helped ship over 100 motorcycles to Zimbabwe for transportation uses. These bikes were used to deliver healthcare workers to the remote outback, helping to bring medical assistance to areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. In the remote parts of Africa, one motorcycle can reach more than 20,000 people per year. Ten motorcycles cost less than one SUV and can go across difficult terrain that bigger vehicles cannot.
In January of 2007, Wheels 2 Africa oversaw the delivery of nearly 700 pairs of shoes to the village of Mbour and over 550 treated mosquito nets to various villages across Senegal. Using the trucks from Team Rally Pan America that were participating in the Dakar Rally, Wheels 2 Africa, led by Huff, was able to drive out to the villages in Senegal and deliver the humanitarian supplies directly to the Africans who needed them the most. “The shoes and nets made a big difference to a lot of good people and mostly young children,” says Huff. “Most infections come from soil, so when children are walking around in bare feet and that foot gets a cut on it, they don’t have a way of preventing infection which in many cases becomes fatal because of the lack of medical supplies. The nets, which cost $10 a piece, can cover a hut which can house up to eight people. For about a dollar a person, those nets are preventing the spread of malaria by mosquitoes for up to four years.” Huff says that Wheels 2Africa’s growth is directly related to the funds received from donors. All the money goes directly towards projects which means they can’t afford to actively publicize their campaign. “Basically we have to show people what we can do with what we have and raise awareness and funds that way,” said Huff. For more information on Wheels 2 Africa, or to contribute, go to www.wheels2africa.org or send donations to Wheels 2 Africa P.O. Box 401, Wirtz, VA 24184-0401. ###