I Believe it Only Takes One Person to Make the Big Difference

Erin - Indianola, Iowa
Entered on January 19, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe I have the power to make a difference, in the world, in my community, but most importantly in the lives of other.

Last year I signed up for a school trip to Namibia, Africa to study AIDS. I took a four month long preparatory class designed obviously to prepare me for the mental, physical, and emotional upheaval we would most likely experience on our three week trip. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for the eye-awakening experience.

While in Africa I lived amongst people who were dying with AIDS. I learned first-hand about the stigma associated with this horrible disease. I realized what it feels like to be a minority and have people make very broad assumptions about me. I was informed that women rarely held jobs besides being prostitutes. I tried to teach people how to live with the disease and most importantly how to avoid contracting it in the future. I asked a woman why she chose a lifestyle of prostitution when she knew the likelihood of getting AIDS, her answer left me speechless. She replied, “If I don’t go out in the town tonight and have sex with the men then I won’t get money to feed my children. If I get AIDS I might live for another good five years, if I can’t feed my children they die tomorrow”.

This woman had probably never been to school or held a job and yet she taught me so much about my own life. This woman made an immediate impact in my life and changed my perception for the remainder of my trip as well. Some people don’t have the luxuries to choose how their lives will be played out. I personally do have the choice and a voice, and I need to use it, especially for those that do not get to. When I was at a soup kitchen a young child told me, “you people come see us, then you cry, and then you leave and we never see ya again”. This message was heart-wrenching and one of the reasons I almost backed out of the trip. I didn’t want to go to Africa, experience what I did and then leave and go back to my happy-go-lucky life with little to no worries. I decided my mission would be to make a difference, be a difference, and gain awareness about the crisis in Namibia, Africa. I am a medical student, but I cannot cure AIDS for the people I met; I can stay in contact with them and let them know that I am gaining awareness so more people can help them like I did.

Everyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small. All it takes is someone that cares. My difference right now is small, but it’s only getting bigger. My trip opened my eyes to the problems around me as well. I see this world I live in, in a new light. I am a better person because a few people in Namibia led me into their lives and made a difference in mine. I am so very thankful.