Foundation Ambassadors Pave the Way for New Advocates
My favorite part of my job at the Foundation is collaborating with an inspiring group of volunteers we call our Foundation Ambassadors. The Ambassadors are a close-knit community of children and adults who are either living with or have been affected by HIV/AIDS. The global program formally began more than a decade ago, but its success is rooted in the Foundation’s history of empowerment, activism, and hope, much of which started with Elizabeth Glaser.
Many of our Ambassadors knew Elizabeth, or got involved after being inspired by her rousing fight against HIV/AIDS. Like her, they speak and share their personal stories to inspire change and to contribute to the elimination of pediatric AIDS.
Traveling around the United States and around the world, our Ambassadors speak with policymakers, supporters, advocates, activists, and media to educate them about HIV/AIDS, promote the work of the Foundation, and convince others to join the global movement against AIDS. I’m constantly inspired by the time, energy, and commitment they bring to the AIDS community.
Recently, we asked our Ambassadors to contribute to the kickoff of the 2012-2013 “Up for the Fight” Dance Marathon season by motivating participating students through social media interviews and outreach. I had the pleasure of joining our Ambassadors in several of these enlightening and motivating conversations, where students had the opportunity to listen and ask questions as Ambassadors discussed their experiences living with HIV.
Students from all of the Foundation’s participating Dance Marathon colleges joined Ambassador Florence Ngobeni-Allen for an informative Tweetchat about her experiences as an HIV-positive woman, mother, community health worker, and advocate. Florence tweeted about her inspirations for staying involved with the Foundation for over 15 years, and her opinions on what needs to be done to reach our goal of eliminating pediatric AIDS.
Similarly, select universities sat down with Florida, a 15-year-old Ambassador, for an informal Google+ Hangout to learn about her role as an Ambassador and hear her discuss the challenges of growing up stigmatized from HIV/AIDS. Florida’s story differs from some of our other young Ambassadors – she is HIV-negative, a beautiful example of the HIV prevention services that helped her mother, HIV-positive Ambassador Fortunata Kasege, have a healthy, HIV-negative baby. Even though she is only 15, Florida spoke eloquently about what keeps her motivated as an advocate, and urged the student audience to be active voices in the fight against AIDS.
Ambassadors like Florence and Florida are paving the way for young advocates. When our Ambassadors share their stories, they motivate their audiences to get educated, get involved, and get active in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Because of them, the Foundation has thousands of new supporters, many of them young people with fantastic ideas, optimism for the future, and boundless energy to continue the work Elizabeth and other advocates have started.
Stay tuned for more from our Foundation Ambassadors as they continue their engagement with Dance Marathon community this fall.
Taylor Moore is Associate Officer of Brand Strategy and Communications for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.