Thursday, November 29, 2007
Tomorrow, December 1, is World AIDS Day.
This weekend - learn something new about HIV/AIDS, read the latest numbers, or find out more about World AIDS Day in general.
Some general reflections on the day. First off, I'm grateful that the world community has set aside a day to consider the challenge before us as people. Globally, there are over 33 million infected with HIV, 15 million AIDS orphans (children who have lost 1 or 2 parents as a result of AIDS related illnesses) and 6,000 new AIDS orphans EVERY DAY! In Zimbabwe alone, where Forgotten Voices is doing most of its work, 500 people die daily because of this vicious disease and about 1,000 children become orphaned because of it.
This young woman was one of the 1st kids I met in Zimbabwe. After being born with HIV, she lived for 17 years before passing away just a few month ago...one of the saddest days in my life. Not only was she among the longest living children born with HIV that the local clinic had ever met, more importantly she was a woman with courage, who knew how to love and laugh. She filled a room and her village with a smile that left no doubt that her survival was directly tied to her passion for life. People are dying because of this vicious, unforgiving disease. But, people are living. We need to figure out how and what we can do to stop it from killing more people.
Some worthy organizations, such as World Vision, have made significant strides to raise awareness in America, with incredible achievements on the grounds of colleges across the country. Through awareness campaigns, fundraisers, political lobbying, etc people who would not typically respond to the challenge are doing just that!
Here's another point that I HOPE we all remember this year on World AIDS Day. Let us remember that AIDS and Africa are NOT the same thing. While Africa is known in this country for the AIDS crises and seemingly endless black holes of disease, this is NOT the full picture. AIDS does not and should not define Africa...nor the other way around.
Forgotten Voices is discovering African leaders with vision, hope, love, intelligence, and drive. They are MUCH more than the perception we have of them as victims of AIDS. AIDS is definitely impacting them in a real and profound way, but it doesn't define them. And it shouldn't.
There are so many things RIGHT about Africa. Things I hope and long for in my home country, the USA. Perhaps those of us in the international development field need to do a better job of talking about what's working, instead of just sharing what's not.
At Forgotten Voices, we pride ourselves on partnership with local leaders in Africa. I best describe what we do when I say that we are equipping them with the resources they need to meet MORE of the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities. Local projects, run by local people to empower AIDS orphans...all of whom have names.
Africa is about the people, who have a faith deeper than I have ever seen anywhere else on earth. Africa is about the promise and hope that tomorrow will be better than today. That last part is something I used to read about in American History books. I don't often hear that optimism as much as I used to. Perhaps we need to learn more from our African friends.
Finally - I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway...cause that's how the phrase goes... AIDS is rapidly rising in several areas around the globe. Some stats show it growing most rapidly in southeast Asia, while others put it in eastern Europe. The point is that AIDS is a global crises...a WORLD crises...impacting all of us...whether we are infected or effected.
Forgotten Voices has a calling to work with local church leaders in Africa to meet the physical and spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities. Get in the game. Join us or some other place working in another part of the world. We need you. We need me. We need everyone.
I welcome your comments. These are tricky matters, full of explosive potential or division. I choose hope and cooperation. Have a little faith. My friends in Africa taught me that.
Note from Ryan Keith, Forgotten Voices
717.506.0633 | RKeith@ForgottenVoices.org
Empowering Orphans: Local People, Local Projects.
Find out how you can use your voice at www.ForgottenVoices.org
Written by Ryan - ForgottenVoices.org at 11/29/2007 04:53:00 PM