African orphans may have little contact with American universities, but one new organization hopes they will soon have many reasons to thank Yale.

This week the African Health Network at Yale kicks off a clothing drive in the residential colleges to help orphans in at least four African countries. The drive started last week at the medical school and will continue for a month in the undergraduate colleges and through the end of the semester in the graduate and professional schools.

The group is dedicated to improving health conditions throughout the African continent and narrowing the health gap between Africa and the developed world.

Yale medical students founded AHNY in November 2003, but the group has since expanded to include about 40 students from both undergraduate and graduate schools at the University. Kemunto Mokaya ’05, who is one of the few undergraduate members of the group said all sizes and kinds of clothing will be accepted.

“Anything people have, if its in decent shape, is acceptable,” Mokaya said. “It doesn’t matter what size it is.”

The primary targets for the clothing drive are two large orphanages in Uganda, but clothes will also be delivered to sites in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. AHNY will expand the drive to even more countries, perhaps South Africa and Ghana, if enough donations come in, Mokaya said.

If there is an excess of adult clothing donated, some will be donated to or tailored to fit poor adults in communities around the orphanages. Although the drive will continue through the end of the academic year in the graduate and professional schools, it will be cut short in undergraduate colleges out of consideration for the efforts of other organizations to collect charity items, Mokaya said.

The club is desperately seeking new members, especially committed undergraduates.

“We could definitely do with a lot more undergrads in the group,” Mokaya said. “There are really big health disparities that need to be addressed, so people’s help and involvement would be greatly appreciated.”

Although specific countries are being targeted for the clothing drive, Mokaya said the organization aims to help the entire continent.

In addition to trying to expand undergraduate involvement, AHNY has recently begun relations with Dwight Hall, a step Dwight Hall Publicity Coordinator Benjamin Staub ’06 said would benefit both organizations.

“In general it is very exciting for Dwight Hall to receive new enquiries and new connections,” Staub said. “When groups that we haven’t worked with before make that connection we try to make it as mutually advantageous as possible. Dwight Hall is really built around making these connections with students and assisting them in any way we can.”

Dwight Hall co-coordinator Brian Goldman ’05 characterized the action AHNY has taken as emblematic of an increased student interest in local and global health issues.

“In the past few years there’s been a rise in health groups involved with Dwight Hall,” Goldman said. “It’s become kind of a popular subject. Health in general and especially global health have become points of interest for those who want to get involved.”

Goldman cited Yale Aids Watch, Reach Out, and AHNY as examples of the increased interest in health issues.

This summer, AHNY will send two students to Kenya to work with health issues, and the group plans a major conference for the fall.

“So far we’re meeting our goals,” Mokaya said. “We’ve already got some of the speakers.”