Welcome to our first Youth Across Borders Blog post. We are so excited to be launching our new website and sharing our vision!
In 2012, I signed up to go on a service trip to spend a week at a home for children with HIV in Honduras. Before going, I was anxious expecting to have a gut-wrenching week filled with sickly children, sadness, and a dim vision of what the lives of these children would look like. I was worried that I would not know what to say to these children or even how to be around them, I was filled with such preconceived notions about life in Honduras as well as young HIV positive children that I worried about their dim futures and the stigma that they lived with every day.
After a long anxiety filled flight and long winding drive through the hills of the countryside I arrived at one of the most humbling places I’ve ever been. I was dumfounded by the smiling, happy, blossoming, vibrant, and loving children. My vision of how they would be in an instant had been completely shattered, I burst into tears realizing that this is where my calling was..
It became clear to me that I wanted the world to understand that people living with HIV can live full and productive lives despite either the misinformation or lack thereof to the contrary. People with HIV/AIDS can think, learn, interact, participate, and imagine a bright future. They need compassion, kindness, and they need to not be feared.
After being there for 24 hours I wanted my friends, family, and the whole world to know that people living with HIV know when fear causes someone to avoid them or to not shake their hand, that the harmful stigma and misinformation that still lays deep within our society is doing real harm to people.
The long story short of it is that with the help of some incredibly generous and giving people, we were able to create Youth Across Borders. Our goal is to educate, help reduce the stigma that comes with an HIV diagnosis, and foster connections between youth and young adults across borders.
I have had the amazing fortune to have many incredibly life altering experiences and moments of joy while leading the trips over the past 3 years, and I look forward to providing more and more of these moments for many others. I believe that if we have compassion for one another, learn to listen and grow from each other, are open to “the things that we don’t know that we don’t know”, and strive for connections in our lives, then we can help the world become a place of more acceptance and less stigma.
With great hopes of inclusion,
(with lots of help from Devin)