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Traveling exhibit puts faces to AIDS pandemic
By Jack Komperda | Daily Herald Staff

Charles West, left, Josh McGehee, middle, and Kyhle Pilcher wait to see if the person they've been listening about in the exhibit has AIDS.

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

Students at Wheaton Academy in West Chicago spent Friday walking through the exhibit, made to resemble an African village, while listening to an audio narrative of a child living in the midst of the AIDS epidemic.

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/19/2008 12:13 AM

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A traveling exhibit is helping to bring home what life is like for an African child living in the midst of the AIDS pandemic.

The interactive exhibit, sponsored by the Christian relief agency World Vision, is being displayed this weekend at Wheaton Academy in West Chicago. It takes participants on a journey through the lives of one of four children who have been helped by the agency.

Through the aid of an audio player, visitors walk through a replica of an African village as a taped narrator walks them through the world of the children.

Amber Johnson, marketing director for World Vision, said the exhibit, which will be open to the public through Tuesday, is meant to help personalize the AIDS crisis in Africa.

"The exhibit is designed to take people out of their world in West Chicago and experience for just a few minutes the sights and sounds of the world these children live in," she said.

At the end of the exhibit, participants wait in a clinic to learn whether the children profiled in their audio journey actually live with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Many of the students who went through the exhibit Friday afternoon also spent a few minutes writing notes and prayers at the end of the exhibit, which the agency sends to supporters of their programming efforts.

"It definitely forces you to think about what these people are going through," said Corey Burke, a senior at the school.

Burke spent the winter break of his freshman year with his family volunteering for a relief agency in Uganda.

"Unless you see the poverty firsthand, you just can't understand," Burke said.

Chip Huber, the dean of spiritual life at the school, said he hoped students could be moved to action by the images and sounds.

About 20 of the school's students will be traveling to Zambia this summer to participate in mission work.

"If you can't go to Africa, this exhibit is the next best thing to understanding what it's like," Huber said. "People tend to be inundated with statistics on AIDS. Once we get them emotionally, they're more likely to get involved."

If you go

What: "World Vision Experience: AIDS" interactive exhibit of an African village affected by AIDS

Where: Wheaton Academy, 900 Prince Crossing Road, West Chicago

When: Daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Tuesday

Cost: Free

Details: Visit www.worldvisionexperience.org