Camp Kindle, a project supported by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, offers children affected by HIV and AIDS a place of both play and empowerment as they learn about the realities of this disease.
By Susan Kim*
June 6, 2013—If more than 34 million people across the world have HIV, can one person really make a difference? Absolutely yes, said Don Messer, co-chair of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund.
“You can't change the whole world,” he said, “but, one by one, we can change the lives of individuals and play our part in curbing HIV and AIDS in the world.”
The fund's new strategy—“Just Save One”—sends a clear message that a single contribution can make a huge difference. “Your gift can help stop transmission of HIV from a mother to a child,” said Messer. “You've made a huge difference.”
As a church, United Methodists traditionally have emphasized reaching out to individuals in need, he added. “Jesus emphasized all the sheep are important. Even if you have 99 sheep, you go looking for the lost one. Each one is precious.”
Messer encouraged people to work in their home churches and communities to raise funds. “The miracle of money is that you can transform coins and dollars into medicine and health. We can make a difference.”
When people think about the challenges HIV and AIDS pose across the world, they can quickly feel overwhelmed, reflects Linda Bales Todd, co-chair of the fund.
“But in fact the numbers are coming down,” she said. “We are making progress around the world.”
Both Todd and Messer are trying to educate people about HIV and AIDS so that the stigma surrounding the virus can finally be lifted. “I think the stigma keeps people from being tested,” said Todd. “That's why we don't have an accurate count and that's why people continue to infect other people.”
In the United States, people are no longer dying from AIDS at the same rate they were decades ago, Todd added, “and so there is a sense of apathy that has taken over here.”
Yet within the US, rates of HIV infection are spiking in Latina and African-American women, she said. “It's not over yet. We have a lot of education to do.”
Patricia Magyar is a health executive with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). She said that one of the UM Global AIDS Fund projects she is very excited about is Project Kindle.
“Each summer, we fund 20 campers who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Their ages range from 7 to 12, and they attend Camp Kindle for a week to participate in sports and recreation, learn life skills, and receive love and affirmation from the camp leaders who are volunteers,” Magyar said.
“It is a wonderful testimony to how we spend our HIV/AIDs dollars to help those in most need,” she added.
Your gift to United Methodists Global AIDS Fund, Advance #982345, will make a difference in the ongoing struggle against HIV and AIDS and the stigma that is still too often associated with them.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.