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Hope Walks Davis invites you to join hands on October 17

Special to the Enterprise
Davis Enterprise, Wednesday September 29, 2010 (page A5)

 

Hope Walks Davis is a fun community event that raises awareness and funds for HIV-affected orphans in India.

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Can we make a difference in the lives of needy AIDS orphans on the other side of the globe? Local residents can shout a resounding “yes” by participating in the fourth annual Hope Walks Davis on Sunday, Oct. 17, in Arroyo Park.
For the past three years, Hope Walks Davis has given participants – especially young people --  the opportunity to address problems in the world caused by AIDS.
"During previous years, we have raised together approximately $23,000 to provide for the basic needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Southern India," said Davis resident Koen Van Rompay, founder of the Davis-based organization Sahaya International, a Hope Walks organizer.
 "This money makes an incredible difference in the lives of young children – it provides food, clothing, shelter, school fees, uniforms and basic health care including HIV testing and treatment."
A gathering of Hope Walks volunteers will be held at International House Davis at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3. If you would like to volunteer as a family or individual or are just curious come to this brief meeting at 10 College Park.
"It’s great to see all of the people who come out for this event,” said Susan Taylor of Woodland.  “Many people bring their families and friends.  My husband, son, and mother participated in previous years, and we all had a good time while raising money for a good cause," she added.
Hope Walks will return to Davis from 2 to 4 p.m., Oct. 17, at Arroyo Park in West Davis. Organized by Sahaya International, International House Davis, St. James Catholic Church, First Baptist Church, University Covenant Church, and CA-House the event features a one-mile walk followed by children's games, live music, lemonade and snacks, and fun educational activities for all ages.
Van Rompay visits southern India at least once a year where he meets the children who are receiving help.
"Many generous Davis residents have helped us build schools there and are sponsoring orphans. Davis residents including Elisabeth Sherwin, Ramin Yazdani and the entire Hampton family have visited these programs and both they and I can assure you of the big difference we make in the lives of children in India,” Van Rompay said.
He recalled meeting a 6-year old HIV-infected girl, Santhiya, in 2004. She and her mother were HIV-infected but thanks to a sponsor from Davis, Sahaya was able to help them.

“We paid for their travel expenses so that each month, they could reach an HIV clinic in Chennai,  six hours away by bus, to get access to life-saving medications,” he said.
“Last year Santhiya wrote me such a touching letter straight from her heart (see www.sahaya.org/kids-stories.html) that on my recent trip time, I decided to visit her and her family at home,” Van Rompay said.  “She told me that she hoped to become a medical doctor.”  

He also recalled meeting an HIV-infected boy, Pandian, in 2003.
 “Both his parents died of AIDS, so Pandian had moved in with his grandmother. But his grandmother was very old and unable to give him the care he needed. He was very thin, depressed and constantly battled opportunistic infections including tuberculosis and nasty skin infections. His clothes were dirty. He was solely responsible for his own health.”

Thanks to the support of people in Davis, Pandian now lives with an uncle who is able to take care of him. Pandian also began taking his medications, including anti-HIV drugs. 

“In January 2010, I saw Pandian, now age 19,” added Van Rompay. “He looks healthy again.  He is a lot happier and smiles now that he has hope. Recently he started college to get a degree in computer sciences.  Witnessing his transformation over the course of seven years has given me a renewed sense of hope for him as well as for many other children.”

Van Rompay says that although the problems seem overwhelming, AIDS is a treatable disease that can be challenged by education and caring.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that together, we can make an incredible difference and provide hope to many more children," added Van Rompay.
 "Come walk with us on Oct. 17. All proceeds raised by Hope Walks Davis will be sent to the Sahaya programs with HIV-affected orphans in Southern India. "
Also people who are not able to come on Oct. 17 can still help with raising funds to help these children. Visit www.sahaya.org to learn more how you can register, form a team, and create an online page to raise funds. Van Rompay is also always willing to give a slide presentation to any local groups or clubs. For more information, contact him at davis@hopewalks.org.

Van Rompay with Santhiya, Monisha and Vijaykumar, three children who are healthy thanks to medical care provided by the proceeds of Hope Walks

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