Changing the world: helping children with HIV, AIDs

Changing+the+world%3A+helping+children+with+HIV%2C+AIDs

by Madi Wilson, Staff Reporter and Hallen Phung, Special to The Simpsonian

Last spring, I studied abroad for a semester in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Originally, I was only going to volunteer at Agape, an orphanage in Thailand that caters to children with HIV and AIDs. After visiting the orphanage, I got so connected to their mission to bring love to all of the children, and I wanted to do more.

I saw the need for a playground for elementary school kids and I started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Agape. I raised $2,704, exceeding my goal of $1,500. This money helped pay for medicine for kids with HIV.

Agape runs on donations to pay for medicine and essential items. It costs about $35 per month and takes 10 sponsors for a child to be fully sponsored. In the last 20 years, more than 300 children have been served at Agape.

Apart from fundraising, I volunteered at the orphanage for 15 hours a week. There are about 120 children of all different ages and a mother-baby unit where terminally ill mothers can find a place to stay. After they pass, their children will then join the orphanage.

Lora Friedrich was the sociology professor who led the trip and introduced me to Agape. She helped establish the first study abroad program to Thailand at Simpson and led several trips including the one last spring. She used to be a Peace Corps volunteer, and that’s how she knew the director of Agape, Avis Rideout. 

In 1996, Avis opened the Agape Home for HIV Orphans. Avis is truly passionate about supporting and sponsoring the orphanage. According to Friedrich, Avis’s first experience with the orphanage was life-changing.

“She walked into this room and there were 12 babies laying on a mat on the floor and they were all babies that were infected with HIV,” Friedrich said. “And she picked up the medical chart of one of the children, and it said, ‘Leave her to die.’”

I was just inspired because HIV and AIDs are such taboo subjects that people often cast aside after being diagnosed. For example, people think it’s so easy to catch AIDs. I just didn’t think it was fair. I was engaged by Avis’ experience, which is why I want to continue supporting Agape and do projects in the future.

A lot of Agape’s funding goes towards medication, food and supplies to allow the children to be in school. They can’t afford what we could call basic essentials, like bras. So I would like to raise money to come back and buy bras for the girls of Agape. 

I had friends and family who shared and donated money to help me with this project and I promoted my fundraiser through Greek life, Facebook and encouraging my friends and family to spread the word.

My advice for people who want to raise money for something they are passionate about would be just to do it and not hold back. You might be that annoying person, but if you’re really passionate, there will be others who are going to be affected by that and willing to help.