There’s been plenty of talk, pages of ugly statistics and volumes of gut-wrenching stories about the AIDS crisis in Africa. Swarms of people have made efforts to bring attention to the problem—people like Bono, Senator Jesse Helms, South African leader Nelson Mandela and Franklin Graham. But what can the average person do to help?
There are four basic things any one of us can do to fight HIV/AIDS and show God’s love in Africa: tell, give, go and pray.
Spreading the word gets more people involved, brings more money to the issue and allows more to happen. The more people you can get involved, the more lives can be saved. Start with your friends and family. Avoid guilt-trips and the high-pressure sales pitch. Just tell them why the issue is important to you.
Next get your church involved. Let your pastor know what you think about AIDS in Africa, and ask them to get your church involved. Remember that church leaders are often over-committed. You may want to spearhead the effort with your pastor’s blessing.
Then tell your government officials that you support debt relief for Africa and increased funding to fight AIDS. Check out DATA (the organization started by the unlikely combo of Bono and Bill Gates) to e-mail President Bush and the senators from your state—it takes less than a minute. While e-mail is easy, a handwritten letter often gets more attention. Jubileeusa.org offers specific tips for writing, as well as calling, or meeting with your elected officials.
A number of different organizations are accepting straight-up cash to help fight AIDS, including, Compassion International, World Relief, and Africare. But if you want to make a more targeted effort, you can choose to support a specific cause:
- $25 will buy education resources to help stop the spread of AIDS (Samaritan’s Purse)
- Less than a buck a day will provide for an orphan for a year (Samaritan’s Purse)
- $30 buys a couple of goats (One Life Revolution)
- $55 will start a family’s chicken farm (One Life Revolution)
- $120 will send a kid to school (One Life Revolution)
- $150 will give a bike to a kid who’s on foot (World Vision)
- $3,000 builds a two-room home for a child-headed household (World Vision)
And don’t just sign the check—get your friends together and make this interesting. Find a creative way to scrape together the cash, like a garage sale, car wash or bake sale. Eat PB & J instead of McDonald’s, give up pop or cancel the cable TV.
Cash donations aren’t the only thing you can give: children’s antibiotics are desperately needed, but only doctors can donate them. Talk to your doctor about purchasing and donating medicine. Pharmaceutical companies often send doctors free samples of these antibiotics. Ask your doctor if they’d be willing to donate the samples. Volunteer to cover the logistics if your doctor will help out.
If you’re serious about fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, then do it. Skip the continent and join the fight in the trenches. You can join a missions trip, plan your own or do something even more creative.
Help sew school uniforms so orphaned kids can go to school through a work/sew team with AIDS Orphans & Street Children. Families have even joined these two-week trips, and kids as young as 10 are welcome. Total cost for you? $1,920. Teen Missions sends groups of teens on eight-week trips for about $4,000 a person, and they need adult volunteers. Dozens of other organizations offer mission trips, like Africa Inland Mission, it’s just a matter of finding one that suits you best.
And if you can’t find a mission trip, make your own. Volunteers are always needed in orphanages, clinics and missions, though you’ll have to handle the arrangements yourself. Talk to your pastor about planning a mission trip for your church. You could follow the Leadership Retreat model presented in The aWAKE Project, a mission trip designed to avoid the pitfalls of typical trips where foreign visitors can be a burden on the local hosts. The idea is to sponsor a leadership retreat for Christian AIDS workers, where you encourage, refresh and inspire the local workers, rather than struggle through language barriers and the short-term contact you’ll have with the locals.
Brian Peterson joined World Vision’s Cycle Rally and biked his way across portions of southern Africa. The Cycle Rally helped educate locals about HIV/AIDS and brought international attention to the issue. At the central site of the AIDS crisis, Peterson saw the victims firsthand and was able to give them some small measure of hope. He’ll never be the same again. Joining a month-long cycle rally like this one will cost about $5,000.
For less than the cost of an overseas vacation you can see the crisis firsthand and do something about it. You might even decide it’s time to take a hiatus from the 9 to 5 and become a missionary in Africa. You can always come back to the corporate ladder, grad school or your job flipping burgers after a few years.
Add AIDS in Africa to your prayer list and offer a sentence or two every day for the people in Africa. If you want specifics, contact one of the many mission organizations working in Africa and ask how you can pray for them. They’ll gladly provide a list of current needs, and the gesture will make their day.
Praying is easy to forget. Write yourself a reminder and stick it in your Bible, the dashboard of your car or your bathroom mirror.
Tell, give, go and pray: four simple things you can do. And if that’s not enough, there are 43 organizations listed in The aWAKE Project that work to fight AIDS in Africa. What are you waiting for?