UP 4 THE FIGHT Top Fundraiser Trip to Tanzania
Maja Bernstein, UP 4 THE FIGHT Top Fundraiser 2016-17
Hello again! It’s Maja, 2016-17’s UP 4 THE FIGHT top fundraiser. I’ve just returned home from my trip to Tanzania and the excitement of it all still lingers. I could have never imagined what an amazing experience my journey with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) would be.
After a long 24-hour travel day, I finally made it to Arusha, Tanzania, which was our base for the next few days. Due to the holiday of Eid, we spent our first few days exploring the city and nearby villages, including Arusha’s central market. The market was full of life, beautiful colors, and the largest avocados I’ve ever seen! It was so fun to be in the middle of the daily hustle and bustle of the city.
The next day we went on a cultural and coffee tour at a local farm in the nearby village of Tengeru. We started with a meal of homemade ginger tea and porridge and asked a million questions about how the farm is run and what life in Tengeru is like. Then we went on a walk through the hills of the village up to one of the coffee farms where we saw how the coffee was grown. After an awesome lunch, I got to roast, grind, and brew my own coffee and it was absolutely delicious! It was an awesome way to end a day full of learning, laughs, and new friends.
The following day it was time for our EGPAF site visits! This was by far my favorite day of the trip and the most inspiring and rewarding. After being introduced to the staff in EGPAF’s Arusha office, we headed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for a tour of the facilities. We met with the nurses responsible for the mother-to-child prevention (PMTCT) program who showed us how they treat thousands of HIV-positive women to insure that their babies do not contract the disease and that both remain healthy.
They also talked to us about how important EGPAF’s funding is for them. They receive routine trainings provided by EGPAF to insure that they are up-to-date on how to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS — and the funding also helps to cover the cost of almost all of the medication they prescribe. After getting the run down on EGPAF’s impact, we attended one of the support groups they hold for HIV-positive mothers who all have HIV-negative babies because of the dedication of the nurses and EGPAF’s funding. It was so inspiring to see this group of women who at one point, were all scared of their status but are now leading very normal and healthy lives thanks to the program.
After lunch, we headed to Mt. Meru Hospital where we visited with their local Ariel Club. Ariel Clubs were established by EGPAF in honor of Ariel Glaser, Elizabeth’s daughter, who passed away from complications due to AIDS. All of the children in the club or support group are HIV-positive and live healthy lives thanks to the medicine and care they receive at Mt. Meru.
The stigma surrounding HIV in most countries is arguably the largest barrier to eradicating the epidemic. We had the privilege to hear many of the children speak about the importance of the Ariel Club because it has helped remove stigma and created a safe place for them. The leader of the Ariel Club teaches them about self-empowerment, gender equality, reproductive rights, and so much more. I was so beyond impressed with her and the hundreds of HIV-positive children she has helped raise into such brave, smart, and compassionate young adults.
Then it was time for the safari! This was the coolest adventure I’ve ever been on. We visited the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Manyara. We saw elephants, giraffes, lions, a leopard, baboons, a rhino, hippos, and my new favorite animal, ostriches. It was amazing to see all of these animals up close and in their natural habitats, roaming about so casually. My favorite part of the safari was seeing how the Maasai people still live in these areas and interact with the animals with so much mutual respect and appreciation for one another. It was a journey I’ll never forget and a great end to such an inspiring trip full of learning.
As I reflect on my trip to Tanzania, what stands out most is the tangible progress being made by EGPAF, EGPAF partners, and beneficiaries. It has absolutely blown me away. I am so beyond thankful for the opportunity to go on this trip with EGPAF and witness their important and impactful the work.