| Acting on AIDS
Student-Led Campaign Encourages a
Christian Response to a World Pandemic
WHAT CAN TWO SEATTLE PACIFIC students with personal
conviction, a creative idea and 350 orange T-shirts do to bring about
AIDS awareness, advocacy and action?
A lot, say SPU seniors James Pedrick and Lisa Krohn, who in February
launched the University’s first student-led AIDS campaign.
| As part of a campaign
that has captured national attention, seniors James Pedrick and Lisa Krohn (forefront) led hundreds
of other SPU students in making a visible statement about the number of children
orphaned by AIDS.
The idea grew out of an internship experience at World Vision, where
Krohn and Pedrick heard a message from Steve Haas, the organization’s
vice president of church relations. “Everyone is putting their hopes
in you to do the right thing about AIDS,” he said. “And quite frankly,
I think you’re afraid to do anything.”
Though the message was given to a room full of interns, Krohn and Pedrick say it
spoke directly to them. “He stressed that the church hasn’t done very much about
the AIDS pandemic, and that it’s up to our generation to do something,” says Krohn.
“So we looked at each other and said, ‘OK, how can we do something that is going
to stick in the minds of students — something that they’ll really experience?’”
The United Nations estimates that in the next six years more than 25 million children
worldwide will lose their parents to the AIDS virus. “Since we couldn’t just ship
SPU students to Africa, we wanted them to see what it would look like if one in
every 20 students were orphaned as a result of AIDS,” says Pedrick.
With modest financial assistance from both World Vision and Seattle Pacific,
Krohn and Pedrick developed a plan for a campus event called “Acting on AIDS Week.”
“We felt that the best way for students to get involved was through their advocacy
and time,” says Pedrick. “We didn’t want students to feel like they could simply
throw money at the problem.”
So SPU senior Jackie Yoshimura stepped forward as the team’s volunteer coordinator
and before long, the idea went from a plan on paper to a well-oiled machine. “Suddenly
my email inbox was overflowing with messages from students who wanted to get involved,
and at our first volunteer meeting we had 250 people show up,” says Yoshimura.
That was important because of the amount of work that lay ahead: collecting signatures
to petition for U.S. government funding increases for humanitarian aid to Africa,
and providing opportunities for SPU students to get involved with AIDS outreach organizations.
Perhaps the hardest-hitting moment of the event was the T-shirt campaign. On three
consecutive Wednesdays, student volunteers wore orange shirts with “Orphan” printed
across the chest. “The first week we had 125 students wearing the shirts, and the
next week there were 250,” says Krohn. “On the last week there were 350, and
people could actually see and experience how fast the pandemic is growing.”
“No longer was it simply a T-shirt campaign to try to reach other students,” says
Pedrick. “It was a T-shirt campaign that changed the lives of students wearing the
shirts. They now have this deep, indirect relationship with the children who have
to face the reality of AIDS on a day-to-day basis.”
The shirts also encouraged discussion across campus. “Our professors would ask us
why we were wearing the shirts, and then give us the opportunity to get up and say
something to the class,” says Pedrick.
Krohn and Pedrick are both graduating this spring, but before they do, they plan
to set the stage for future student involvement. “We’re helping 65 interested students
form an Acting on AIDS chapter at SPU &edash; something we would ultimately like
to see replicated at other universities,” says Krohn. “We know of several universities
considering this on their campuses, and that’s exciting.”
Both say they want to pursue grant funding
to take their work national, even after they graduate. The team was already
awarded a grant — from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
and the Association of American Colleges and Universities — to support their
participation in the Program for Health and Higher Education Symposium in Washington,
D.C., this spring. Five students made the trip, which included a strong SPU presence
at the symposium, a meeting with Senator Patty Murray, and a consultation with the
leadership of the Council for Christian
Colleges and Universities regarding the future of Acting on AIDS.
In the end, it wasn’t a catchy slogan or
creative T-shirts that made the campaign successful,
but rather the conviction of Krohn and Pedrick, says Haas: “This all started with
two students who recognized that the worst evil is when good people do nothing.”
— BY SARAH JIO
— PHOTO BY JOHN KEATLEY
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