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Spring 2004 | Volume 26, Number 6 | Campus
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?

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.
A lot, say SPU seniors James Pedrick and Lisa Krohn, who in February launched the University’s first student-led AIDS campaign.

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.”



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Back to Campus

From the President
As today’s opinion-shapers declare the Christian message irrelevant, Seattle Pacific University President Philip Eaton reminds us: “For two billion people, the resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything.”

“This Is Our Campaign”
Creativity and commitment are the hallmarks of faculty contributions, including finding precision science equipment and seeking grants. [Campaign]

When Disaster Strikes
As senior development officer for Northwest Medical Teams, alumnus Dick Frederick ’63 helps deliver care to those who need it most. [Alumni]

Fact or Fiction?
A new Response department reviews the best-seller The Da Vinci Code. Why is this page-turner disturbing so many Christians? [Books & Film]

Looking Ahead
Falcon women keep their sights on a national championship after a perfect season ends too soon at the Elite Eight. [Athletics]

My Response
Nicaraguan native Maria Antonia Caldera Hunter ’89 tells of an SPU study tour to her homeland that showed her the presence of Christ in unlikely places.