Spreading AIDS Awareness at ‘Gate



Kate Preziosi

Colgate’s Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) is capping off its second year of service by commemorating World AIDS Day this Friday. Through Friday, the student organization will host a variety of fund-raisers and events to increase awareness for the cause.

The group is carrying on without its founders – Casey Emett, Matt Inbusch and Kara Cooperrider – who are all wrapping up a semester abroad. The three are known for their unique approaches to fund-raising, including last spring’s apple juice chugging contest. But with senior Emily Burton and junior Sue LeBarron in the leadership roles, SGAC has been anything but inactive. With the help of juniors Alex Smith and Cara Delaney, this semester has been one of innovative ideas and new aims.

Smith and Delaney approached Burton and LeBarron before the fall semester with a plan to get students more actively involved in fighting HIV and AIDS locally. Every month, SGAC sends Colgate students to the Utica AIDS Clinic to get certified to work with HIV patients at the hospital there. Yesterday’s speaker at SGAC’s brown bag lunch was a woman involved with the clinic who is also HIV positive.

“We wanted to bring the problem home and have students hear what it’s like to deal with it personally,” Burton explained.

Another initiative the club is focusing on is a collaborative project with Saint Mary’s Church. All fund-raising efforts this semester finance a nationwide project to bring clean water to rural South African villages with the instillation of several water purification systems called PlayPumps. The PlayPump is a children’s merry-go-round connected to an underground water source. As the children play, the wheel propels water through a filter connected to a pump.

Unsafe water and a lack of sanitation is the primary cause of illnesses worldwide. The PlayPump initiative has already brought 750 of the filters to South Africa, slowly decreasing the number of nearly five million South Africans who lack access to clean drinking water. PlayPumps International also takes advantage of the water towers installed in some of the villages by advertising ways for children to protect themselves from HIV.

Through Friday, SGAC will have a table in the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop) encouraging students to make contributions to their fund-raising for a PlayPump. But rather than have a standard donation drive, Burton and LeBarron came up with a more personal approach.

“When you just contribute five dollars or something, it feels like you’re not really doing anything,” Burton said. “So we came up with the idea to name the fund-raiser ‘Give Something Up For AIDS.'” A donor can pledge to sacrifice something he or she takes for granted on a daily basis, like a cup of coffee for example and contribute the dollar amount to SGAC.

Also on Friday at 6:00 p.m., SGAC will take part in a national candlelight vigil outside the Chapel. The vigil will last until the opening of Dancefest at 7:00 p.m.

“It’s just another way for us to raise awareness on that day,” Burton explained. “As people come to see the show, they’ll also notice us.”

Friday night’s festivities don’t end with Dancefest. The Palace Theater will host Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, a reggae band from Africa playing to raise money for African refugees. The concert correlates with SGAC’s efforts to install a PlayPump in South Africa.

“The PlayPump is definitely a long-term project for us,” Burton said, adding that it costs roughly $14,000 to have a single filter system installed.

Next semester, SGAC will also focus on fund-raising for the Blantyre North Relief Project, an AIDS orphanage in Malawi run by Professor of Religion Rev. Dr. Harvey Sindima and his sister. Volunteers who feed, clothe and educate the 700 AIDS orphans who live there run the program.

“The money goes towards buying blankets, food and textbooks to keep the orphanage running,” Burton said.