Dr. Linda Stevenson, of West Chester’s Political Science Department and Latin American Studies, along with West Chester students welcomed Patty Hillkirk, Executive Director of Camp Dreamcatcher in Kennet Square, Pa. at the Sykes Theater on March 26 for the screening of “Tiny Tears,” a documentary of children around the world living with HIV/AIDS.”Tiny Tears” is a documentary that follows director Robert Corna around the world while he visits camps for children who are living with HIV/AIDS in Brazil, Uganda, Thailand and the United States. Each camp is filled with loveable faces and spirits that will touch your heart.
Corna travels first to Thailand to Nikki’s Place-Agape Home in Chiang Mai. Agape Home is run by Avis and Roy Rideout.
After being sent to Thailand for missionary work, Avis encountered her first child with AIDS. She was overtaken with emotion because she had always been told to fear people who had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, however she instantly fell in love.
“I want my eyes to see for real and my hands to feel,” said Avis, after she picked up a child with AIDS and held her tenderly in her arms.
Today, the Agape Home has adopted over 70 children living with AIDS. A few years ago, the Thailand government began to issue medical help to the Agape Home, supplying it with ARBs, antiretroviral medication therapy to help manage their HIV/AIDS.
Avis says that since they’ve started administering the ARBs they have not lost a single child and her children are becoming healthier, happier, they are full of energy and gaining weight.
One child that touched the heart of director Robert Corna was Bow, a small orphan girl living with AIDS, also born with fetal alcohol syndrome and a clef palate, as well as several other conditions. Despite being so young, Bow has undergone many surgeries, however, many surgeons have refused to operate on her because she has AIDS.
While Corna was hugging Bow goodbye, she asked if he would remember her. He explained to her, of course he would, he’s going to email her and send her pictures, how could he forget her?
“We just became new friends,” Corna said.
Next, Corna visits Brazil, at the Sociedade Viva Cazuza, home for AIDS orphans that was founded by Lucinha Araújo, the mother of an infamous Brazilian rock star Cazuza.
Cazuza was Brazil’s first rock star and public figure to openly claim that he had AIDS. Despite suffering and being placed in a wheelchair, Cazuza recorded his last double album before he died on July 7, 1990.
At Sociedade Viva Cazuza, Corna meets 4 year old Fabiano, who is full of spirit and energy. Fabiano is living with AIDS as well as sickle cell anemia. Along Corna’s journey, he meets the charming Natalino, 13, who is also living at Sociedade Viva Cazuza and dealing with normal teenage problems like breaking up with his girlfriend. Lucinha Araújo introduces the world to Renata, a woman with a loving heart who originally volunteered to help at Viva Cazuza but was admitted to the orphanage when her AIDS developed into HIV/AIDS.
Robert Corna’s next stop was Kampala, Uganda to Juna Amagara Orphanage, run by Reverend Benjamin Tumuheirwe. Juna Amagara translates to “Save Life,” which is what the orphanage has been doing since its establishment in 2004.
“Hope has been the sustaining thread of life,” said Reverend Benjamin Tumuheirwe.
Not only is Juna Amagara a home for children orphaned children living with AIDS, it is a place to help them grow into Christ to be healthy, proactive members of society. Juna Amagara provides housing, nutrition and schooling for many of Uganda’s 1.5 million orphaned children.
Reverend Benjamin Tumuheirwe and the Uganda government are now teaching an ABC programs; Abstinence, being faithful to your partner and condoms, all the helping slow down the spread of HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
The youngest member of Juna Amagara Orphanage is Benja, who was abandoned after his parents gave birth to him and found out that they were HIV/AIDS positive.
Shortly after, he was brought to the orphanage and was named Benja or Benjamin, after Reverend Benjamin Tumuheirwe, the camp director.
Conra’s last visit is to the United States, where 70,000 children a year are lost to AIDS. Located just outside of Philadelphia is Camp Dreamcatcher in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania. Patty Hillkirk is the director of Camp Dreamcatcher which is held for one week each August, that children travel from all over the Philadelphia region to attend. Nearly the 170 HIV/AIDS infected or affected children attend Camp Dreamcatcher every year.
The camp offers children a safe therapeutic environment to express their feelings and emotions. Volunteers and professionals in the fields of psychotherapy, music/art therapy, yoga and massage are available for the children. Over 260 counselors, medical staff and other professionals volunteer at the camp to make sure that the children have an unforgettable experience.
Bow, from Thailand, Benja from Uganda, as well as Fabiano and Natalino from Brazil were flown in to the United States this past summer to attend and enjoy Camp Dreamcatcher. Bow met a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania who said he would perform the delicate surgery to fix her face for $350,000 which is being raised for Bow with help of donations and contributions all over the world.
However, this year the funding for Camp Dreamcatcher has been cut. Camp Director Patty Hillkirk is seeking donations and volunteers from the Phildelphia and surrounding regions to lend a helping hand and open their hearts to the children at Camp Dreamcatcher from August 16 through the 22. More information about volunteering can be found at www.CampDreamCatcher.org.
Along with being featured in “Tiny Tears,” Robert Corna gave gifts to each camp, a full set of lacrosse equipment. Camp Dreamcatcher handed out wish bracelets to students at the screening of “Tiny Tears” that read:
“Many a child looked up and smiled, here in this circle of love. Camp Dreamcatcher.”
Joli McCarthy is a third-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. She can be reached at JM625940@wcupa.edu.