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Step by Step

Fund-raiser making strides for AIDS victims.

By Elisabeth Sherwin (Enterprise Staff Writer);
Davis Enterprise, Friday September 14, 2007 (page A1)

Koen on beach with children
Koen Van Rompay, a UC Davis researcher, visits with a group of Indian children and teens at the beach two hours from their village in southern India in 2006.

Mark your calendars now for a special walk for kids that will take place in October.

It's Hope Walks, an effort to raise money for AIDS orphans in India, on Sunday, October 28, from 2 to 4 pm at Arroyo Park in West Davis.

Davis-based Sahaya International and the Cal Aggie Christian Association -CA House- are working with Hope Walks to educate children and adults here about AIDS and to help AIDS orphans overseas with direct support.

"But the most important lesson we'd like to impart is this: Kids and youth can make a difference," said Koen Van Rompay, the UC Davis researcher who founded Sahaya International.

The Rev. Greg McGonigle, associate campus minister for the CA House, said HopeWalks represents a concrete opportunity to make a contribution. "I think our university students - the millennial generation- will step up and get involved with this," he said. "This, the first generation to come of age in the new millennium- love to be of service and look for opportunities to do so. "They want to bring people together," McGonigle added.

The idea for HopeWalks, which started in Berkeley last year, came from a young girl who wanted to help other children, Van Rompay said.

"All children and adults are invited to take part - walk with us for a few steps or a mile - and know that you are helping other children," he said. After the short walk, there will be games for kids and activities.

Help is needed to run the event, and university and high school students are invited to work with Sahaya and the CA House volunteers at the October 28 event.

A volunteer training meeting will take place at noon Sunday, Oct. 7, at International House, 10 College Park, with free lunch of spaghetti (meat or vegetarian), garlic bread, salad, dessert and iced tea. The lunch will be provided by Mary Philip and her crew.

"We are encouraging students to attend the Oct. 7 luncheon to meet eachother and other volunteers, become educated on AIDS, and get organized for the walk," McGonigle said. "And have lunch, of course".

Since the first walk took place in Berkeley, thousands of dollars have been raised in similar walks. You can pledge to support a walker, join the walk yourself, or make a donation online. Go to www.hopewalks.org/davis to register or donate.

Children are encouraged to create their own web pages by going to www.firstgiving.com/hopewalks.

Local businesses and other event sponsors will receive online and onsite acknowledgment based on the level of sponsorship. Volunteers are soliciting sponsorships now.

"We also want to educate adults and children about the global orphan crisis, and tell their stories, not just of sadness, but also of incredible courage and strength," said Van Rompay, who visits India annually. "We have training curricula suitable for school children from preschool to adulthood."
The worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic has resulted in 15 million orphans and vulnerable children, he said. And more than 6,000 children are added to this number daily.

"Together, we can give hope to these children," Van Rompay said.

For more information, contact Koen at kkvanrompay@ucdavis.edu.



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