Exhibit educates on AIDS

Oct 092008
Authors: Jessica Cline

A 3,000-square foot replica of an African village, which will occupy the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom this weekend, will educate students and community members about the impact of AIDS on African children.

The national exhibit, “World Vision Experience: AIDS — Step Into Africa,” tours the U.S. in an attempt to spread awareness of the preventable AIDS disease.

The free exhibit lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. today through Monday and is sponsored by World Vision, a “Christian humanitarian organization” with programs in more than 60 countries, according to the organization’s Web site.

“We encourage people to come to the exhibit, because people are changed by this exhibit,” said Jennean Heric, the tour manager for World Vision. “What we are hoping is that this is a chance for Americans to step out of their lives and into the life of an African child that has been affected by AIDS.”

Mary Zenzen, the project manager for the exhibit, said the exhibit is displayed like a “maze,” with four pathways representing the lives of four different children.

The children — Babirye, Mathabo, Kombo and Emmanuel — all have different stories to tell, and everyone visiting the exhibit will be able to listen to one of their personal stories while walking through a re-enactment of what their lives are like.

World Vision now provides for the four children. They inspired the exhibit because their stories show unique aspects of the effects of AIDS, Heric said.

“The exhibit is literally bringing Africa to us: it is designed to look, smell, sound and feel like Africa,” Zenzen said. “The exhibit serves to put a face to AIDS, in order to help bring more awareness to the AIDS pandemic in Africa.”

Heric said World Vision planners aim to bring the exhibit to 70 cities this year.

The Fort Collins church network had expressed interest in bringing the exhibit to Fort Collins, Zenzen said. At this stop, she said, she hopes to emphasize education in Fort Collins, given its status as a college town.

There are more than 25 million people worldwide who are infected with AIDS, and more than 15 million children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS, according to World Vision.

“One of the reasons of the exhibit is to bring awareness to the AIDS pandemic in Africa. The children’s stories are real; they personalize the problem and put a face to the pandemic,” said Jennifer Kuntz, a spokesperson for the tour.

The main goals of the exhibit are to raise awareness of the problem of AIDS worldwide by helping people learn about the impact and magnitude of the problem, Zenzen said.

She said World Vision wants to inspire great public commitment to assist in fighting the AIDS pandemic.

“People have lots of preconceived notions about Africa and AIDS, and this exhibit will change people’s perspectives,” Zenzen said.

More information on the exhibit or involvement can be found at http://worldvisionexperience.org.

Staff writer Jessica Cline can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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