Visitors had an opportunity to meet the HIV-positive mother whose life story they just experienced at a Seattle showing of the interactive exhibit, The World Vision Experience: AIDS.
Olipa, 28, hugs an emotional visitor who just experienced her life story through the interactive exhibit at a Seattle showing of the World Vision Experience: AIDS. © 2007 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision
About 30,000 Americans have already accepted an invitation to walk in the footsteps of a person affected by AIDS at The World Vision Experience: AIDS
. But those invited to a special showing of the prototype exhibit at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle were able to take the emotional journey one step further.
After leaving the 2,340-square-foot exhibit, visitors could meet in person the woman whose life story they had vicariously experienced through a series of audio and visual effects.
Many collapsed into the arms of Olipa Chimangeni, 28, and wept.
A Tragic Story
During the exhibit, visitors learned that an older man exploited Olipa when she was still a teenager in Malawi. A few years later, he returned to "apologize" — but ended up taking advantage of her again. Olipa found herself the single mother of two children and infected with HIV.
Olipa, who was invited by World Vision to come to the United States to visit the exhibit, says seeing the re-enactment of her life was painful, but worthwhile.
"It shows people how things are for those living with AIDS," she says. "Other people who have got HIV can gain encouragement from my story."
Following the success of the prototype, World Vision has developed an all-new version of the Experience. A nationwide 80-city tour of churches launched on July 28 and will continue through next year.
|The World Vision Experience: AIDS is embarking on a multi-city tour across the United States. Find the location and dates nearest you — and change everything you thought you knew about this global crisis.|
Making It Real
Visitors to the Experience are assigned one of four "life lanes" and are suddenly transported to Africa, where they walk in the footsteps of one African child devastated by AIDS. Each participant receives a set of headphones and an MP3 player, and begins a journey through dusty villages and ramshackle homes.
Mike Yoder, director of the Experience, says visitors begin to appreciate the sense of fear, rejection, and pain endured by AIDS-affected children and families in a raw and compelling way.
"Government dignitaries, young people, pastors, community leaders, and everybody in between have been uniformly deeply moved," says Yoder. "Nearly everybody who has visited the Experience says how eye-opening it has been."
He notes that World Vision intentionally chose churches to feature the exhibit, recognizing that churches could and should be a major force in the fight against the global AIDS pandemic. "The church has a mission to support widows and orphans, and this includes those widowed and orphaned by AIDS."
Donors in the United States sponsor approximately 391,000 children in AIDS-devastated communities through World Vision's HopeChild
Overcoming a Stigma
Olipa Chimangeni speaks at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. Once ostracized because of her HIV-positive status, she is now an advocate for people affected by the AIDS crisis. © 2007 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision
Olipa says the days following the discovery that she was HIV-positive were extremely dark. She tried to earn a living by making and selling doughnuts, but when people learned she had AIDS, they refused to buy, fearing the doughnuts would transmit the disease. At the time, her church was similarly unsupportive, branding all individuals with AIDS as sinners.
The situation changed, however, when World Vision gave Olipa some pigs to start a successful pig-breeding venture, and then helped her start a support group for people living with HIV in her community. She began speaking about AIDS prevention in schools, churches, and open-air meetings. The attitude of her church changed, and she joined its women's guild, which is now active in the care of those affected by AIDS.
Olipa says she has managed to stay healthy by maintaining a strict diet, which has boosted her immunity to disease. She now hopes to finish her secondary education and go on to study nursing.
"I want to do more work with people with HIV in remote communities," she says.
>> Read about
the World Vision Experience: AIDS.
>> View an online interactive version
of the World Vision Experience: AIDS.
>> Find the dates
during which the Experience will be in your area, and reserve tickets for the event.
Three Ways You Can Help
>> Pray for children and families around the world devastated by HIV and AIDS. Pray that the World Vision Experience will move the hearts and minds of visitors to take action on the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.
>> Volunteer at the World Vision Experience. Your contribution to the success of this event will make a difference in the lives of children and families affected by the AIDS crisis.
>> Sponsor a HopeChild. Vulnerable children living in communities ravaged by HIV and AIDS need your support.