Ohio University is home to many students both local and abroad, with student organizations serving as a support system and a second family to those who come from far and wide to gain an education here in Athens. 

These student organizations, like OU’s Latin Student Union (LSU) also serve as a way to give back to the less fortunate and and hardworking, through a variety of methods like workshops, philanthropy work and fundraisers. 

This Saturday, LSU, with the help of Health Homes for Healthy Living, or H3L project, will be raising funds for people living with Chagas disease in Ecuador during a night of dancing and celebration at The Union Bar and Grill. 

If You Go:

What: Fiesta Latina

Where: The Union Bar and Grill, 18 W. Union St.

When: Saturday, 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Admission: $5 under 21, $3 over 21

“We've been hosting Fiesta Latina in one form or another since 2016,” Scott Winland, promoter and talent buyer for the Union, said.

For the Fiesta Latina event, The Union will be featuring Latin music and dance, while members of LSU collect donations to be used to combat the conditions of people living with Chagas disease in South Ecuador. 

Chagas disease, which is transmitted from the bite of the triatomine bug, is an incurable condition that is characterized by swelling around the area of the bite, fever, discomfort and can lead to congestive heart failure. Though symptoms are not always shown initially, this disease is lifelong. 

“Chagas disease is known as a neglected tropical disease because it does not receive a lot of attention,” Lori Lammert, director of operations of the Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute (ITDI) at Ohio University, said. “It affects underserved populations that don’t have a lot of resources. There is no vaccine for Chagas disease, so stopping the bugs from biting people is the main way we can fight Chagas disease – which indicates the need for homes that keep the insects out.” 

Currently 7 million people from the U.S. to Southern Argentina, are infected with Chagas disease, and 99% of the infected individuals don't have access to proper medical care to help them combat the disease. 

“ITDI has members doing different projects and types of research,” Lammert said. “From laboratory research looking at mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis that contribute to disease – to researchers looking at different aspects of tropical disease as well as reproductive and sexual health.”

Since 1999, OU students and faculty affiliated with H3L and ITDI have been working alongside students from the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, or PUCE, to create secure, bug repellant housing for the people of South Ecuador, where Chagas disease is common in rural communities. 

“It’s a great cause and it’s a fun night,” Rosa Avina, a senior studying marketing, said. “If you want to help the Latin American community, this is the perfect way to make an impact. We (LSU) promote the identity and unity of Hispanic/Latino students at Ohio University.”

OU Latin Student Union has been an active student organization on campus since 2016 and has been hosting Fiesta Laina since last spring semester. 

“As a Latinx student I think it’s super important to have a space for all of the Latinx students to feel at home,” Avina said. “This is one of the events that I enjoy to this day and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to continue it!”