High school students raise awareness of World AIDS Day 2012

The following blog post was written and submitted by King’s High School Social Justice student Trinity Chanel Hepper in recognition of World AIDS Day 2012.

As today, Dec. 1, marks World AIDS Day, King’s High School Social Justice class, taught by Ryan Crane, decided to make a bold statement on the campus of King’s High School.

Students on World AIDS Day 2012
King’s High School students in Seattle, Wash., stand amidst 250 white crosses, symbolizing the number of people who die of AIDS every day.

Some of the students met early Friday morning, Nov. 30, before school and set up 250 stark white crosses on the lawn in front of the high school, symbolizing the 250 lives lost every hour from AIDS.

Senior Trinity Chanel Hepper, a student in the social justice class and club said, “The crosses almost symbolized grave crosses that you would see in like a military graveyard. I felt shock from how depressing it looked and from the number of people that die in just one hour from this terrible disease. My classes are longer than an hour and 250 people die in less time than I am in my class. I really hope our idea and our action made an impact to the student body of King’s. I know it got people talking which is always good.”

Some associate AIDS with people from other or third world countries, but it’s right in our own backyard. In 2010 the estimated number of people in the U.S. who were diagnosed with AIDS was 1,163,575; of these, 226,593 were adult and adolescent females, 9,475 were children under 13, and 893,058 were adult and adolescent males.

The social justice class aims to raise awareness different injustice topics happening around the world—even locally.

“Kids that attend King’s have such a great opportunity to change the world, and for us as a class to bring awareness to [the student body] is a good thing,” said Mr. Crane. “Hopefully it will plant a seed, and make them have a desire in whatever they do in their future and even through their job to help change and make a difference. They all know of injustices, but they don’t know about them, in detail. So we try to bring awareness to them and ways to help solve and create problem solvers out of them.”

“AIDS is a worldwide problem and our students and young people need to be aware of it,” said Trinity. “The crosses put on the front lawn of the high school did just that.”

Keep up the fight against AIDS, for families like Marie’s

It has been 30 years since HIV and AIDS were discovered. In some ways it seems like a short time, but in reality, it has been a long, hard-fought battle. There are still 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS. For them, and their children, we need to intensify the fight.

World Concern’s mission is to reach the most vulnerable first – in this case, the children orphaned and affected by AIDS and their caregivers.

Children in Haiti are typically born into a family that survives on less than $100 a month. Eighty percent of the population lives below the poverty line and more than 40% are unemployed. There are about 120,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti. And there are hundreds of thousands of children who have lost a parent to AIDS or whose lives are affected by having a sick parent.

We work in impoverished communities in Haiti ensuring vulnerable children are in school, have nutritional and psycho-social and that their families have medical care, health and hygiene training and more. We’re also reaching thousands of people with AIDS prevention information to help stop the spread of this disease in Haiti.

Marie and her children.
Marie and her four children are living with the effects of AIDS. They're grateful for the support they receive from from World Concern.

One of those we’ve helped is Marie, a widow whose husband died in the earthquake. Marie has four children. And she has AIDS. When we met Marie, her biggest concern was not how long the tent they were living in would hold up. What kept her awake at night was worrying about what would happen to her children if she died.

We connected Marie with the support she needed to stay healthy and provide for her kids. They’re getting nutritious meals and an education, and Marie attends support groups for people living with HIV and AIDS.

“I learn about my disease, what causes it, and I get my questions answered. We pray together,” she said. “I found the support I needed here. They’ve helped me.”

For Marie, for her kids Suzeland, Blondel, Jeffton and Luckny, the fight against AIDS is not over. We need to keep fighting with them.

This World AIDS Day, take a moment to learn more and get involved.

You can honor a loved one this Christmas with the gift of support for an AIDS orphan. Find out more here.


Reaching 153,000 AIDS orphans

While it’s sometimes hard to quantify success, one thing is certain – the ripple effect and long-term effects of good development work impact more people for generations to come than any of us will know.

How many future generations will benefit from one child in a poor Kenyan village making her way to university because her high school tuition was paid?

How many lives will be saved from better nutrition resulting from improved farming methods and tools in rural Laos?

An AIDS orphan in Zambia
An AIDS orphan gets help putting on her new shoes, socks and uniform so she can attend school.

On the other hand, because of excellent tracking and reporting by our field staff, there are many occasions when we can quantify results, and they’re often quite amazing.

This week we received a report that details six years worth of work with AIDS orphans in Kenya, Zambia and Haiti. This work was accomplished through the support of numerous partner agencies and funding from donors and USAID/PEPFAR.

The numbers are pretty astonishing:

  • Awareness was raised to enable support for children affected by HIV and AIDS in 6,495,030 people.
  • Basic needs were met and support was strengthened for 153,663 orphans.
  • 27,943 orphans received access to formal education or vocational training.
  • 6,759 older children (ages 15-17) were equipped to meet their own needs.

It’s exciting and motivating to be a part of something so great, yet at the forefront of our minds are the individuals among these numbers – individuals like 16-year-old Jacqueline, who lost both her parents when she was in eighth grade. She was left in the care of her elderly grandmother, and had almost quit school when help came her way.

Jacqueline and her grandmother received resources to grow a garden and to raise pigs and chickens for income. They earned enough to keep Jacqueline in school, where she passed her basic exam, earning her a spot in high school. She plans to become a doctor and return to her village, pledging to support other AIDS orphans like herself.

Even if Jacqueline had been the only one, the work would be worth it. But we’re thankful, as we reflect on 2010 and look ahead to 2011 that there are thousands more lives being changed every day.

For more information on World Concern’s work around the world, visit www.worldconcern.org.

Spreading the word about HIV and AIDS worldwide

AIDS street skit
A street skit relays messages about AIDS prevention in Bangladesh.

The staff of World Concern Bangladesh observed World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) in a variety of ways to heighten awareness of HIV and AIDS. They organized street rallies where project beneficiaries took part; presented educational skits; gave informational speeches; and disseminated AIDS prevention messages in public places among other things.

Local newspapers and TV channels covered the events. The Area Manager of Transparency International stated, “World Concern delivers the right massage to the right place where and for whom it is needed.”

A political leader said, “The awareness program of World Concern Bangladesh will act as the vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS.”

World Concern Myanmar staff also conducted a variety of activities to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, includinghanding out red ribbons to people and educating the community about the disease and how to prevent it.

Handing out red ribbons on World AIDS Day
World Concern staff in Myanmar handed out red ribbons on World AIDS Day.

Sri Lanka commemorates World AIDS Day

Cancles being lit in Sri Lanka
World Concern Country Director Selina Prem Kumar (second from right) participated in a cancle lighting ceremony to remember those who died from AIDS this year.

In commemoration of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, World Concern Sri Lanka held several events to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and to remember those who lost their lives to the disease this year.

In collaboration with the Jaffna Regional Department of Health Services, World Concern brought attention to the global AIDS crisis through a week-long awareness campaign that included essay competitions. Sixteen contestants received awards during a program on Dec. 1, which included a candle lighting ceremony in remembrance of those who died of AIDS this past year. World Concern also provided nutrition packages with a value of $97 USD for five AIDS patients.

In Trincomalee, 250 students, ranging in age from 15 to 18, attended an HIV/AIDS awareness program organized by World Concern and the public health department.

For more information on World Concern’s AIDS programs, please visit our website.

Children receive awards in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan students received awards for their essays about HIV and AIDS as part of World AIDS Day.

Wake up! It's World AIDS Day

Marking World AIDS Day today feels somewhat like a glass of cold water splashed in the face, charging the world to refocus its attention on the AIDS epidemic. Does it seem like HIV and AIDS have taken a backseat to other global issues? Could we even risk saying it’s no longer chic to fight this deadly disease?

The number of people infected with HIV had stabilized in recent years, and the numbers of new cases and deaths have both decreased (due to antiretroviral therapy), but we’re still a long way from reaching the Millennium Development Goal to “Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.”

And AIDS orphan with younger sibling.
An AIDS orphan in Kenya cares for her tiny sibling.

Nevertheless, we at World Concern are encouraged some numbers of our own, which far exceeded our goals. In supporting children orphaned or left vulnerable for AIDS in Kenya, Zambia and Haiti, 153,663 children were served – 3,000 more than targeted. Many of those children live with caregivers – relatives or foster parents – and we strengthened 39,106 caregivers, 16,000 more than intended. Teenage orphans often end up caring for younger siblings, so we help them with food, education, vocational training and psycho-social support. Nearly 28,000 AIDS orphans received educational support through our projects, which had a goal of serving just 3,600.

Among those encouraging numbers are real people, and it’s important to put faces and names on this disease. One of those helped by World Concern is 15-year-old Japheth, who lives in Kenya.

Japheth was bounced between four homes in his short life. Raised by a single mother until she died, Japheth moved in with his grandmother, but she too passed away three years later. His aunt and uncle initially took him in, but he was kicked out of their home when his uncle learned that Japheth was HIV positive.

He had inherited a small piece of land from his mother, but his uncle snatched that up and sold it.

World Concern learned about Japheth and contacted a local pastor who has been active in our AIDS orphans program and found a foster family for Japheth. With our help, Japheth was also able to redeem the land that was stolen by his uncle. And, we helped him get his school fees covered so he could be back in school.

Japheth, a Kenyan AIDS orphan.
Japheth is on his way to high school, despite being left homeless by AIDS.

Japheth is now living in a supportive environment and thriving in school, scoring high enough grades to secure admission into Nijia High School.

World AIDS Day serves its purpose of raising awareness and refocusing people on this issue. But it’s still just a day. We need to remember that people like Japheth don’t need a day to be reminded of the devastation of HIV and AIDS. They live it every day.

To learn more about World Concern’s AIDS programs, please visit www.worldconcern.org/godparent.

For more information on World AIDS Day, go to www.worldaidsday.org.

1,000 Crosses For World AIDS Day

It’s tough to break through the noise. People have got places to go. They’re lost in thought as they walk, talking on the phone, worrying about their own lives.

That’s why it was so cool to see a moment in time where people could pause and reflect, even briefly, about the enormous human cost of a pandemic.

It’s tough to miss what amounts to a graveyard on a college campus.

Seattle Pacific University students helped me place 1,000 white crosses with red ribbons on their campus, for World AIDS Day 2009. 1,000 represents the number of people who die from AIDS worldwide in a four hour period.

Big numbers make my eyes glaze over. That’s why the crosses are so important.

Every cross represents a name. A life. A mom, dad, son or daughter. Someone with a smile, with hopes for the future, with interests and passions.

I was able to spend a day with children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya last year with Christian humanitarian organization World Concern. I was amazed at the way they played and horsed around and kicked around a soccer ball. I took They are children – and they find themselves with nobody to watch out for them.

It’s awesome what World Concern is doing to help people with AIDS, and those left behind, in Haiti, Zambia and Kenya. Such critical needs, of food, water, income, education.

It is the calling of Jesus to care for widows and orphans, and this is exactly what AIDS has caused: 15 million orphaned boys and girls. This is essential work. As one person said about this grassroots project to raise awareness for AIDS, “This looks like Christ.”

For more information and to see how you can protect one orphaned child: www.worldconcern.org/godparent

High School Humanitarians

World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
Orphans: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.

Students from Kings High School in Seattle worked with World Concern to produce art for World AIDS Day 2008. The mixed media art projects were displayed in a public library in Seattle. I was impressed with the display. I think my favorite was a simple, bold painting that helps illustrate the pain of orphans.

Help: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
Help: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.Tear: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
Heart: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
Heart: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
Face: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
Face: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
Erase: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
Erase: World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
World AIDS Day art display for humanitarian organization World Concern.
World AIDS Day art display in a Seattle library for humanitarian organization World Concern.

1,000 Crosses on World AIDS Day

Humanitarian relief for world aids day
World Concern is installing 1,000 crosses to raise awareness on World AIDS Day 2008.

Early this morning, I joined a couple of co-workers for an unusual event in front of World Concern’s international headquarters in Seattle.

Hammering by streetlight, we finished placing 1,000 wooden crosses into the ground, each with a red felt ribbon.

Today is World AIDS Day, a time when the general public joins humanitarians to consider the enormity of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

5,500 people will die today and another 6,000 will be infected. More than two million people will die this year because of AIDS.

The first 500 crosses went into the ground smoothly Sunday afternoon, then we finished in the darkness Monday morning. Hammering was easy. What’s difficult for me is the realization that 1,000 crosses doesn’t even account for one day of deaths due to AIDS. It’s about the number of deaths in four hours.

World AIDS Day 2008
World Concern staff member Tara Garcia helps install 1,000 crosses for World AIDS Day 2008.

What has surprised me in my research of AIDS is that three out of four people who die from AIDS live in Africa, more specifically, sub-Saharan Africa, which is approximately the southern 3/4 of the continent. In this incredibly poor area of Africa, the rate of HIV/AIDS is often between 10 and 60 times higher than in America. Seven countries have rates over 15 percent. Generations are dying.

I am proud of World Concern’s work with those affected by HIV and AIDS. We provide humanitarian relief for those with HIV and AIDS, as well as others affected by the virus, including AIDS orphans. Since 2004, World Concern touched the lives of more than 150,000 people AIDS orphans, and nearly 40,000 caregivers. Our AIDS work includes the countries of Haiti, Zambia and Kenya.

I hope that the crosses help show the reality of AIDS. It is not something to be ignored. Most importantly, it is something you can help change, but supporting organizations like World Concern that have a direct, positive influence on the lives of poor and desperate people.

Feel free to come by today, if you are in the Seattle area. The display will be up today, and gone tomorrow. Of course, the challenge of HIV and AIDS will remain after World AIDS Day, and for that, we ask the you remember those affected by AIDS year-round.

World Concern is located on the campus of CRISTA ministries. The address: 19303 Fremont Ave. N, Shoreline, WA, 98133.

Here’s how to contact me.

World Concern staff member Derek Sciba helps install 1,000 crosses for World AIDS Day 2008.
World Concern staff member Derek Sciba helps install 1,000 crosses for World AIDS Day 2008.

The Plan: Plant 1,000 crosses for World AIDS Day

world aids day
World Concern is remembering World AIDS day by displaying 1,000 crosses. It represents the number of worldwide AIDS deaths that occur in just three and a half hours.

It’s rightfully disconcerting to see an enormous pile of white wooden crosses. There are too many to easily count. I had 300 of them in my SUV this morning. It took a couple of people to help me unload them.

World Concern has decided to raise attention to the fact that two million people die each year because of AIDS. Three out of four of those people who die are dirt poor and live in Sub-Saharan Africa. The population I’m talking about is diverse. And contrary to what some may believe, it isn’t a “gay disease,” or a disease of drug users. In Sub-Saharan Africa especially, it’s everywhere. It’s an anyone disease.

Anyway, our plan is to plant these crosses in front of World Concern’s international headquarters here in Seattle to raise awareness in our local community. We’re doing it on Dec. 1, on World AIDS Day. We’d also like some news coverage bringing attention to the continuing crisis – and what we’re doing about it.

Big numbers are often difficult to put in perspective. But here’s a glimpse of what we’ve experienced on this project. It’s taken several people a couple of months to create the crosses. At 1,000, we think we have a lot. But really, we don’t have nearly enough.

What amazes me is that the enormous pile accounts for only about four hours worth of AIDS deaths. That’s about the time between when you might get to work – and lunch.

At 1,000 crosses, it’s shocking. Each cross is a human life. A mom, dad, son or daughter. And with the display, we’ll not even able to represent one day. Humanitarian organizations like World Concern are part of the solution. We need your help.

Click here to find a promotional poster for the event and media contact information. World Concern has a variety of projects related to AIDS relief.