The cornerstone of our experience, based on practice, theory, and research, is the image of the child as rich, strong, and powerful. The emphasis is placed on seeing the children as unique subjects with rights rather than simply needs. They have potential, plasticity, the desire to grow, curiosity, the ability to be amazed, and the desire to relate to other people and to communicate.
~ Carlina Rinaldi
More Knowledge – Less Discrimination
Last month, I had the honor of spending 7 days in Honduras as a service team member at Montana de Luz (http://www.montanadeluz.org), a non-profit organization that provides a loving home, education, and a hopeful future, for children with HIV/AIDS. The priority of Montana de Luz (MdL) is to help the children who reside there heal, thrive, and grow. The staff functions as a family, providing loving relationships and opportunities for each child to develop to their full potential.
In Honduras, as well as many other countries around the world, HIV/AIDS has a terrible stigma and those who are inflicted with the infection are often marginalized due to lack of knowledge and misunderstanding. As a way to defend themselves against this stigma, the teenage children residing at MdL have created a group known as Luz: Para Las Personas Con HIV who have designed an interactive presentation on the Myths and Truths of HIV/AIDS. As part of our MdL service team experience, we had the opportunity to attend the presentation that included PowerPoint slides, a pre and post quiz, humor, and detailed facts, completely presented by the children. For me it was one of the highlights of the week. I was amazed how poised the children were as they shared insightful information in a way that was on par with any of the professional presenters I have experienced in my life. I saw beyond each of the children’s strength and potential to become contributing citizen of Honduras, I witnessed their abilities as current and future leaders of Honduras.
Although one of the uses of the presentation is to educate service teams while on the grounds of MdL, its greater purpose is its use beyond the gates, in churches, schools and community centers, to dispel assumptions, educate with facts, and advocate for all people who are infected with HIV/AIDS. Each time these children who are 13-17 years old, leave the safety of their home to take their presentation to others, they exhibit their ability to face forward and to be strong leaders. They exhibit bravery, facing their own fears, as they head out into a society who stigmatizes them. They exhibit their readiness to take risks as they face audiences who have assumptions about who and what they are. And they exhibit confidence as they work together to share the facts of HIV/AIDS and advocate for their rights and the rights others.
The following YouTube clip has been created by MdL and the Luz group. It shares a small portion of the information in the hour-long live presentation and stars many of wonderful children who call Montana de Luz their home. I hope you find it as inspiring and hopeful as I do.