World AIDS Day 2010 : I Remember

Just last night I was visiting with a couple while riding home from a photo shoot… we got to talking about my experience in Malawi… I made the comment that I couldn’t believe that it’s been two and a half years since I boarded a plane and said my last goodbyes to that wonderful place. It is really scary how time gets away from you… I’m starting to understand what my dad means when he makes those statements.

Each year, days like today sneak up on me. I promised to never forget the things I saw. There is no doubt that I won’t forget the things I saw. But the reality is… I woke up today, and were it not for Twitter, I would have no clue that it is World AIDS Day. Each year, I find myself further and further away from my connections with the reality that people all over the world are suffering from a disease that is crippling societies… destroying families… stripping the last strands of hope that people are holding on to.

Yeah… it’s been two and a half years since I left that place. But, there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think about Malawi. It may be a cup of hot tea that I drink in the morning… a dish that we have for dinner one night… when I just naturally call one of the kids in our Life Group “Iwe”… or give Sara and sad face when she is complaining about something and say “pepani” (“sorry”… said in a very childish-tone… yeah… I’m mean like that!).

Today I remember.

Today I’m wearing the shirt that a Malawian friend made me… randomly I already had it on before I remembered it was AIDS Day.

Today it is important that our friends and neighbors around the world know that they are not alone in this fight.

For those of you who didn’t know… I lived in Malawi, Africa for almost a year working with a program called HOPE for AIDS. Check out the wonderful work they are doing! I wrote about all my experiences on a blog called Hope From Malawi. Here’s a particular post I wrote when I was visiting an AIDS clinic that we supported.


world . aids . day

Around the world today, people are stopping to consider the impact that HIV&AIDS has had on the human race.

As I stop and do just that, I’m reminded of many faces that became friends while I was in Malawi. Many people who contracted HIV and were doing their best to make the most of life with this virus.

As I write this, I am becoming aware of my tendency to move on from that experience. Faces and memories are getting blurry, and with each word of Chichewa that slips my mind, my soul forgets another detail of the reality for people living with AIDS in Malawi.

Today is as much for me as it is for them. For people living with HIV, they don’t need to be reminded that it exists. Each and every minute of every day, they know what HIV is doing to their body and to their society. It’s not for them that we pause to think… it’s for us.

It’s for us to consider the fact that 33 million of our fellow humans are currently living with a disease that is killing them at an alarming rate.

It’s a day for us to consider why 95% of those living with HIV are in developing countries.

It’s a time for us to think about the impact that this one tiny virus is having and will have on society.

It’s a chance for us to contemplate how we [you + I] need to respond.

You can’t simply ignore the fact that this is something plaguing the world.

I highly encourage you to check out this interactive AIDS experience. It will change the way you see those living with HIV.

If you’re new to this blog or haven’t known me for very long, you should also check out things I wrote while living in Malawi working with those affected by HIV&AIDS. I’ve pulled up some of the posts that I wrote specifically regarding HIV&AIDS… you can check them out here.

Refuse to not be educated about what’s happening around you.

Refuse to turn your head away from those sitting on the side of the road.




Crazy Day…

So, today has been a really interesting day for me.

It all started bright and early with a 5:30am phone call. Not knowing why my phone was ringing me out of deep sleep, I just answered it with an ID that read “unknown number” or something like that. On the other end was a lady with a British accent talking about something. So, I got out of bed and headed to the living room to have this weird conversation with this lady. She was actually a reporter with BBC News.

Yesterday, the BBC posted a “Have Your Say” forum on a new legislation that the Malawian government is proposing that would give loans to prostitutes in order to help them start a business and get off the streets. Of course there is plenty of debate about such a legislation. And, because I love Malawi so much, I just chimed in with my 2 cents, left a comment and then kinda forgot about it.

Now… here I am at 5:30 in the morning talking to this lady (who sounds just like the lady that says “BBC newwwws” on the radio … if you’ve ever listened, you would know exactly what I’m talking about) about what my thoughts are on this legislation. Honestly, I was pretty confused as to the reason why she: a) cared so much about this legislation and getting all this info about it; and b) why she cared what a guy in Texas thinks about it.

Turns out, out of the 120+ comments that people made, some people had pinged mine as an opinion they would want to hear more about. The reporter thought that I would offer an interesting perspective since I had lived in Malawi and worked with HIV/AIDS prevention and stuff.

So, she invited me to participate in an hour long live BBC Africa broadcast that started at 10:00am today.

Basically, it was kind of a forum where they start a discussion and then pull people in on the line to give their opinion about it. At the same time, people are e-mailing and texting in thoughts as well. I sat on the phone for quite a while and, based on the people they had on their talking (Malawian Minister of Gender, actual prostitutes, other important people from around the world), I was pretty sure that they probably weren’t going to get to me. But, I listened to this lively debate and had many thoughts throughout the hour.

Then, the guy said, “and now we’re going to go to Ryan in the States and see what he has to say about this. Ryan, do you think that this plan that the Malawian government is proposing is something that will actually work based on your time there?”

I had been practicing my non-Texan accent all morning to prepare for this opportunity… I really didn’t want to sound like a hick on world news! So, I talked really fast (like non-Americans tend to do) and said:

“I feel like we most certainly need to focus legislation on sex workers, but I think that the current proposal is lacking in that it only focuses on monetary things. By simply giving someone a loan, you are failing to address other important factors such as investing in the person spiritually and emotionally. Let’s try to get at the root of this issue and invest in people… invest in education. But, I also want to commend the Malawian government for at least starting down this road and developing progressive legislation that would attempt to tackle this hard issue. I just feel like it needs to be developed more and that the long-term implications need to be considered before this gets implemented. What we need is not a bandaid approach here… their needs to be a more holistic approach that deals with why people have gotten to this point.”

Then he asked me what I did while I was in Malawi, and I told him.

It was pretty short.

I just think it is crazy that I was just on world news talking about something that I honestly don’t have more than a few opinions about (by no means expert opinions).

Who would have thought that my Thursday morning would go this way?

This is the reason I LOVE BBC News!

You can check out the comment discussion¬†here. If you click on “reader’s recommended” tab, my comment in the 8th one down. Unfortunately, I don’t think that they are going to post the audio from it. Oh well…