Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Sahaya Walks helps HIV-infected children in India

Shanti, a 14-year -old resident of India, is among the HIV-infected children who have received support from Sahaya International, founded by Davis resident Koen Van Rompay. Courtesy photo

You can help

What: Sahaya Walks

When: 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21

Where: First Baptist Church of Davis, 38141 Russell Blvd.

Info: www.sahayawalks.org

Can we make a difference in the lives of impoverished AIDS orphans on the other side of the globe? Davis residents can shout a resounding “yes” by participating in the Sahaya Walks event on Sunday, Oct. 21.

For the past five years, these events have given participants of all ages, from children to retirees, the opportunity to address problems in the world caused by AIDS.

“Over the years, through our walk events, together we have raised a total of about $40,000,” said Davis resident Koen Van Rompay, founder of the Davis-based organization Sahaya International. “We have sent 100 percent of these proceeds to provide for 21 HIV-infected children in Sahaya’s programs in India — giving the children access to the basic needs of life, including HIV medicines and proper nutritional supplements to keep their health strong.

“Thanks to our annual walks, we have not lost a single child due to AIDS for six years. This is truly something to celebrate!”

Sahaya Walks will return to Davis from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 21 at First Baptist Church, 38141 Russell Blvd. in West Davis. Organized by Sahaya International in partnership with First Baptist Church, International House Davis, the India Association of Davis, St. James Catholic Church, University Covenant Church, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Church Davis, Davis Community Church, CA House, Visions UCD and several Davis High School clubs, the event features an easy half-mile walk followed by fun educational activities and games for all ages, music, lemonade and snacks.

Van Rompay visits southern India at least once a year where he meets the children who are receiving help. He recalled meeting Shanti, a 6-year-old HIV-infected girl, in 2004. She and her mother had HIV but, thanks to a sponsor from Davis, Sahaya was able to help them.

“We paid for their travel expenses so that each month, they could reach an HIV clinic in Chennai, eight hours away by bus, to get access to life-saving HIV medications,” he said. “We also helped her with other basic needs. Now she is 14 years old, happy and healthy.

Shanti wrote to her Davis supporters: “When I pray to god I usually have a habit of praying for all your well-being and health. We want you in our life, because without you there is no life for us. My entire family is happy now and I pray to god to give a long life for you to help many children like me.”

Van Rompay says that although the problems seem overwhelming, AIDS is a treatable disease that can be challenged by education and caring.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that together, we can make an incredible difference and continue to provide a future to these 21 children, and any additional HIV-infected children that may be diagnosed in their rural area,” he added. “We invite everyone to join us on Oct. 21 in this celebration of life.”

Those who cannot participate are welcome to contribute online at www.sahayawalks.org. Van Rompay also is willing to give presentations to local clubs and organizations; contact him at koen@sahaya.org.

Special to The Enterprise

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