The creation of these care kits was the culmination of a year-long project begun when the summer reading list included a book about a young African woman's experience with AIDS. For young adults unlikely to be touched personally by the AIDS pandemic, this had to have been an eye-opening read. Thankfully, it also touched and opened hearts. Students led an effort that raised nearly $10,000 to help people that none of them are likely ever to meet. To the credit of the school district, they are teaching the next generation of leaders the importance of becoming world citizens. They are learning the answer to the question “who is my neighbor?” is anyone anywhere who suffers and for whom you can make a difference. Isolation, insulation and impotence in the face of massive global problems are easily created with simple and indifferent silence. We do our youth a disservice when we fail to expose them to the truth that one billion people on this planet struggle to exist on one dollar a day or less. They are better able to create a brighter future when they have hope that they can change the fact that 6000 people die every day from AIDS or that the preventable, treatable disease of malaria remains the leading cause of death for African children under the age of five. We can take comfort in the fact that these young people are looking at these problems and imagining solutions.
The students also got a quick civics lesson when a college student asked them to join in advocacy to support the reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). If we all learned our civics lessons correctly, we should know that emails, letters and phone calls to our legislators help to make our democracy work. We can join with these future leaders today by supporting them in the effort to support this worthwhile legislation. $30 billion over five years is a small gift from us that could mean the gift of life to thousands. Caring for others is a lesson we can never learn too well.