Finding a solution to AIDS in Africa— a disease that kills one child under the age of 15 every minute—has become much more than an abstract discussion for students enrolled in an Elon Winter Term course this January. It’s turned into a passion.
The General Studies course, titled “Caring is not enough: Development Assistance that Works for Children Affected by AIDS,” is taught by Lucy Steinitz, a former social worker who has lived in the African nation of Namibia for the last 10 years. A co-founder of Catholic AIDS Action, the largest non-governmental AIDS relief organization in Africa, Steinitz has seen firsthand the devastation AIDS has wrought on the African people. She wants her students to make a difference.
“I want them to understand that when they’re emotionally drawn into something like fighting AIDS, they need to know how to follow up responsibly,” Steinitz says. The course teaches students how to analyze policies and examine the impact of AIDS from the perspective of the African people.
“You have to look at this problem with a bottom-up approach,” Steinitz says. “You have to see it from the standpoint of a Namibian child with AIDS before you can try to develop strategies to fight the problem.”
Senior Kelly Keenan of Wilmington, Del., agrees. “I’ve learned to think as someone in Africa would rather than as someone in America. Because AIDS is complex, it’s easy for people to ignore it or say it’s too big to understand. Sometimes, I think people are afraid to look at it. AIDS is such a big huge problem that equipping students with the knowledge to help is very powerful.”
Students learn what development strategies are most likely to work and analyze why previous attempts to help African children affected by AIDS through international development assistance have failed. The class will also visit Family Health International in Raleigh on Jan. 17, an organization that helps donors support relief efforts around the world.
From the first class meeting in early January, Steinitz says her students have embraced the idea of the class, even setting a goal of raising $1,500 by the final class day on Jan. 24 to help Namibian children.
“This is one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken,” says Keenan. “My best friend and I talk about it all the time. It’s become much more than just a class we go to for 3 hours a day.”