Saturday, 21 July 2007

Teens learn how to help others

Teens learn how to help others

Leadership institute teaches to think about issues, from medical breakthroughs to Third World countries.
By Michael Miller

ALISO VIEJO — Weston Chandler reluctantly became a songwriter Friday.

The Newport Harbor High School junior was one of more than 100 students from around Orange County attending the Leadership Institute For Teens' annual humanitarian conference at Soka University in Aliso Viejo. On Friday, the final day, the organizers planned an exercise in which students wrote short poems about times when they felt an urge to make a difference, then submitted their words to songwriter Don Miggs to convert into lyrics.

For the first few minutes, it was slow going. Miggs, who leads a band and composes songs for weddings and other occasions, asked any student to offer some words for a tune. One head after another shook around the room and one face after another turned red. Finally, Weston, 16, directed his paper toward the front of the auditorium.

"This is brave," Miggs said as the room applauded. He then read Weston's poem out loud — "I knew there was violence/I pretended it wasn't there … " — before promising to convert it to a song by the late evening.

"You're going to be dead so much longer than you're going to be alive, and you're alive now," Miggs reminded the crowd. "So if you've got something written down, say it."

The Leadership Institute For Teens, organized by Newport Beach residents Lucy Steinberg and Sarah Weiland, encourages students to think about a number of issues, from medical breakthroughs to conditions in the Third World. More than that, though, it encourages them to take action — and that can start as simply as setting pen to paper.

The conference this week, hosted for the fourth straight year, included a panel discussion on religion, a presentation on stem cell research and even an appearance by three young South African women who talked about combating AIDS in their country.

"It powers me up for the next year, coming to this," said Weiland, an independent filmmaker who has shot documentaries in Bangladesh and other developing nations.

This year's event, whose sponsors included the Orange County Department of Education and the Orange County United Way, drew a record turnout.

"The idea is, this year more than others, getting more students from different parts of the county together," Steinberg said.

MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

1 comment:

Rainbow said...

Facing the Challenges of HIV/AIDS

Around the world, more than 47 million people are now infected with the HIV/AIDS, It is now a weapon of mankind destruction. It has killed more than 30 million people worldwide according to UNAID and WHO reports since the 1st of December 1981 when it was first recognized. This makes it the worst recorded pandemic in the history of pandemics against mankind. In 2006 alone, it was reported to have killed between 2.5 to 3.5 million people with more than 380000 as children. The large number of these people killed is from the sub Saharan Africa. In some Sub-Saharan African countries, HIV/AIDS is expected to lower life expectancy by as much as 25 years.

AIDS is no longer a problem of medication. It is a problem of development. It is not just an individual hardship. It also threatens to decimate the future prospects of poor countries, wiping away years of hard-won improvements in development indicators. As a result of the disease, many poor countries are witnessing a worsening in child survival rates, reduced life expectancy, crumbling and over-burdened health care systems, the breakdown of family structures and the decimation of a generation in the prime of their working lives.

Bangladesh's socio-economic status, traditional social ills, cultural myths on sex and sexuality and a huge population of marginalised people make it extremely vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Everyone buying sex in Bangladesh is having unprotected sex some of the time, and a large majority don’t use condoms most of the time. Behaviors that bring the highest risk of infection in Bangladesh are unprotected sex between sex workers and their clients, needle sharing and unprotected sex between men.

Though the country overall has a low prevalence rate, it has reported concentrated epidemics among vulnerable population such as IDUs. There are already localized epidemics within vulnerable groups in, and the virus would spread among the IDUs’ family or sexual partner.

In many poor countries, commercial female sex workers are frequently exposed to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs). Where sex workers have poor access to health care and HIV prevention services, HIV prevalence can be as high as 50-90%. Evidence shows that targeted prevention interventions in sex work settings can turn the pandemic around.

Bangladesh is a high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly among commercial sex workers; there are available injection drug users and sex workers all over the country, low condom use in the general population. Considering the high prevalence of HIV risk factors among the Bangladeshi population, HIV prevention research is particularly important for Bangladesh. It is very awful, several organization in Bangladesh are working only to prevent HIV/AIDS but few of them like as ‘Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation’ try to develop proper strategic plane, so should increase research based organization recently.

Poverty in Bangladesh is a deeply entrenched and complex phenomenon. Sequentially, the HIV/AIDS epidemic amplifies and become deeper poverty by its serious economic impact on individuals, households and different sectors of the economy. Poverty is the reason why messages of prevention and control do not make an impact on a vast majority of the vulnerable population.

Sources: World Bank, UNAIDS, UNICEF.

Kh. Zahir Hossain
M & E Specialist (BWSPP)
The World Bank
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Mobile: 01711453171