An exhibit, now traveling the United States, seeks to sensitize Americans to the plight of children affected by AIDS in Africa by recreating the sights and sounds of a small African village.
As visitors to AIDS - Step into Africa enter the exhibit they are handed headsets. Wandering through a 2,500 square foot mock African village, they hear about the disease through the eyes and ears of four African children: Kombo, Emmanuel, Mathabo, and Babirye.
Babirye tells them about her family. Her father died of AIDS. Her mother is sick. She fears she might be next.
World Vision, Christian relief group, organized the virtual exhibit to raise awareness. Many people know of the disease through the media, says World Vision spokesperson Ange St. Hilaire. She calls the HIV/AIDS epidemic "the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.” She adds the exhibit is effective because “very few times do we get to actually experience what it’s like to live in an area that’s affected so much by the pandemic.”
So far more than 200,000 people in over 90 U.S. cities have experienced the exhibit. In addition to raising awareness, World Vision organizers hope, the exhibit will inspire visitors to sponsor a child affected by AIDS.
“People are very moved when they come out,” says St.Hilaire, and they usually “respond and take action” after walking through the presentation.
There are picture folders of children waiting for sponsorship. People are invited to sign up.
The free exhibit is one of two that have been in circulation for about two years. It opens in Chicago next week. Future stops include other parts of the state of Illinois, as well as Missouri, Ohio and California.
How children are affected by AIDS, see the video preview Watch