Pericles sends Elon pair
to study HIV in Namibia


They traveled 20,000 miles by air and 2,000 miles by car, shooting 25 hours of digital video and taking 700 still photos. They interviewed more than 20 people, learning about the tragedy of rampant HIV on the African continent.

Elon staff member J. McMerty and Elon faculty member Tom Arcaro spent two weeks in July traveling to Namibia and working on a special Project Pericles-funded mission. They spoke with many concerned Namibians, from leaders of non-profit organizations to teachers with HIV.

"The goal of this project is to make both people in the U.S. and Namibia more aware of what is being done to stop or at least slow down the killer disease," said McMerty.

Project Pericles funds such efforts to foster community engagement by faculty and staff members through service sabbaticals and general-studies courses. Elon University has also selected a group of students to be Periclean Scholars. The students will work with the footage McMerty and Arcaro brought back, creating mini-documentaries as a class assignment.

McMerty will also produce a 30-minute documentary about a special group of young Namibians they encountered in their travels. "These teens educate all different groups through songs and dramas," he said.

The journey was complicated but rewarding.

"We met with the Namibian Ministry of Film, where we made plans to work together in promoting their country as a great place to film and in return they waived many of our costs for filming," McMerty said. "The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting provided a producer/director/translator for us - that was a great help."

Arcaro and McMerty have applied for funding for a return to Namibia in January. "We want to take two communications students and two Periclean scholars back to do follow-up interviews as well as shoot more cover footage," McMerty explained.

The experience has left both Arcaro and McMerty glowing about the potential of their project.

"We are using our resources and the skills we possess to make a difference in the world - even if it is small, I feel it's important," McMerty said. "This is an opportunity that doesn't come along very often, and it changed me. I realize how lucky I am for all the things in my life. I realize that we worry about very ridiculous problems. I also realize that it is nice to work in a supportive environment like Elon where dreams can become reality with hard work and dedication.

"I hope our finished projects will inspire people to pitch in and help with this pandemic that faces Africa as a whole and specifically Namibia. I would like the documentary that we are producing to simply tell the stories of the people we met, in their words."



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Last Modified:  8/22/03
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