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Hope Walks benefits AIDS orphans

Families invited to join walk in Arroyo Park

Enterprise Staff
Davis Enterprise, Sunday Sept. 21, 2008 (page A4)

Local residents can make a difference in the lives of AIDS orphans and other children in southern India by participating in Hope Walks in Davis on Sunday Oct. 19.

A year ago, the first Hope Walks in Davis gave participants the opportunity to address problems in the world caused by AIDS.

"We walked, sang, ate energy bars, drank lemonade, played games, and listened to people talk about their hopes for an AIDS-free future," said Davis resident Koen Van  Rompay, a Hope Walks organizer.

hope walks 2007
Two young girls walked for AIDS relief at the first Hope Walks event in Davis in October 2007. Hope Walks returns on Sunday October 19, 2008 to Arroyo Park in West-Davis and features an easy 1-mile walk followed by children's games and other activities.

"We also raised approximately $9,400 to provide for the basic needs of orphans and vulnerable children in India," he added. "This money makes a huge difference in the lives of young children – it provides food, clothing, shelter, school fees, uniforms, and basic health care including HIV testing and treatment."

Hope Walks will return to Davis from 2 to 3:30 pm October 19 at Arroyo Park in West Davis. Organized by Sahaya International, St. James Catholic Church and the Cal Aggie Christian Association (CA House), the event features a1-mile walk followed by children's games and other activities that also include adults.

Van Rompay, founder of Sahaya International, visits India at least once a year and has witnessed the impact that a few dollars can have on the lives of needy and sick children in southern India. He recalled meeting two small children in India, Susmitha and Surya, whose father died of  AIDS in 2001. Such a loss in itself was devastating, but then it became known that their mother was also infected, and the three were forced to leave their home. Their relatives also feared catching AIDS, so they, too, refused to help. The family now lives in a tiny hut and the mother is a day laborer when she can find work and she is well enough to work. 

"Earning enough to feed her family was extremely difficult, until a family in Davis provided them with monthly support, including the money to buy two goats," Van Rompay said. "Now the family is able to survive, the mother’s health has improved, and the kids are going to school." 

Many Indian children have lost both parents to AIDS; some of them have been taken in by elderly grandparents barely able to eke out a meager leaving. Some children are also infected with HIV and must travel by bus for up to six hours monthly to receive their medications at the nearest hospital.  In school, they are sometimes shunned by other students.

"The problem seems overwhelming, but many small contributions can add up to a lot of help," added Van Rompay. "Come walk with us. Together we can spread the word that AIDS is a treatable disease that can be challenged by education and caring; together, we can make a difference and provide hope to many children."
All proceeds raised will be sent to the village in Southern India, Andimadam, where Van Rompay has worked over the past decade.

"I know these children and their parents," he said. "Many generous Davis residents have helped us build schools there and are sponsoring orphans. Many Davis residents have visited these programs and both they and I can assure you that your money will go to a worthy, worthy cause."

Volunteers are needed. Those who want to volunteer before or at the event should contact Van Rompay at davis@hopewalks.org.

Volunteers are needed and invited to attend an education and training meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, September 28 at International House, Davis, 10 College Park. Participants will be treated to a free lasagna lunch, watch a slide presentation and take a group quiz about HIV/AIDS.

To volunteer, contact Van Rompay at davis@ hopewalks.org.

For more information, to register and seek sponsorship for the event, visit www.hopewalks.org/davis or e-mail Van Rompay.



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