Everyday 8,000 people die from AIDS, and 1,000 of those people suffer in Africa. It is up to other communities, like Chester County, to help fight back against this fatal disease. Over 34 percent of African households earn less than $2.00 a day placing these families in poverty.Lack of income consequently results in 61 percent of the nation’s 18 million children living in poverty. In 2005, there were an estimated 1.2 million children living as orphans due to the HIV virus, and this number is continually increasing.
Living by the quote, “To be honorable is to serve,” the Honors College at West Chester University exemplifies this. Beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 19 and lasting for 24 hours, the Honors College students inhabited a shack to emulate what it is like to live in South Africa.
They displayed a simulation for an 11-person shack in Africa, designed by Habitat for Humanity last year. This shack was created to raise awareness by showing WCU students what the living conditions are like in South Africa and to begin thinking globally outside of what the students have always known.
In addition to this shack, these students collected 1,000 shoes, representing the 1,000 people that die from AIDS in South Africa everyday. They also created a replica of a soup kitchen to bring back the experience of South Africa to WCU.
This shack was also used to create an advertisement for the Honors College’s main event, Aid to South Africa, which was held on Sunday, March 30 from noon to 6 p.m. in Hollinger Field House. The day was filled with entertainment from magicians and hypnotists, live music, food, crafts, games and activities for all ages.
The mission of Aid to South Africa is to reduce hunger, provide comfort to AIDS victims and to raise awareness of South Africa. All proceeds raised from donations and sponsorships will be collected in efforts to help benefit the H.E.L.P Ministries Soup Kitchen and Sparrow Village in South Africa.
H.E.L.P. Ministries Soup Kitchen is a soup kitchen developed by Rev. Cecil Begbie established as a Welfare Trust in December of 1994. Soup is served every five days to over 1,000 unemployed adults and to over 700 students in each of the eight different primary schools. The soups served are loaded with minerals that help support general health, energy, strong immune systems and overall physical growth.
Sparrow Village in South Africa was founded in February of 1992 and is a program that focuses on adopting children who are HIV-positive. They are currently caring for 238 children, many of which are orphans and 94 adults. Unfortunately, many of these people will die within four years, but Sparrow Village offers a place for these victims to die in peace. Running water, daily meals, beds, tutoring, play and even teddy bears are supplied to help comfort those affected.
The Honors College students have been traveling to South Africa since 2001 to help the people in every way they can. The inspiration to continue these events comes from the living conditions in South Africa. Approximately 40 students and faculty members will be traveling there this May to continue the tradition of making a difference in the lives of so many people.
“Dr. Kevin Dean, Honors College Director, wants to expose his students to lives they’ve never seen before, inspiring them to come back from this trip and make a change,” fourth-year student and executive director Brendon Johnson said.
If a person was unable to attend the event, donations can be made on an individual level as well as a group level. Individual donations can be made online or mailed into West Chester University. Further information can be found on the WCU Web site concerning the donation process.
For more information about this, visit www.wcupa.edu/aidtosouthafrica, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Johnson for specific inquiries at BJ597150@wcupa.edu.
Jackie Aliotta is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. She can be reached at JA609350@wcupa.edu.
Maggie Cosgrove is a second-year student majoring in elementary education with a minor in literacy. She can be reached at MC626229@wcupa.edu.