Reflection Service, Flag Display to Mark World AIDS Day

November 26, 2007 - News Release

The University of Guelph is recognizing World AIDS Day with a special reflection service Nov. 30, a choral music performance Dec. 1, and a display of 2,300 red flags to visually illustrate the magnitude of AIDS in Africa.

The flags, donated by Merck Frosst Canada Ltd., will be planted in the green space in front of the University Centre on Friday and will remain there throughout the weekend (World AIDS day is Dec. 1). Each flag is a statistical representation of 10 people who died from AIDS last year in the small country of Lesotho, one of the epicentres of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Some 23,000 people died there last year.

The Nov. 30 reflection service begin at 3 p.m. in Room 103 of the University Centre. The event also marks the success of the University’s Masai Project: For Africa, for AIDS, for Hope in meeting its goal of raising $100,000, through the sale of red and white "bracelets of hope” and other fundraising efforts.

Volunteers began selling the bracelets across campus to raise funds, and since then they’ve sold throughout the city, across the country and even in areas in the United States and Britain. To date, more than 30,000 have been sold.

The bracelets are handmade by the Inina Craft Agency, a co-operative in Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The co-op started as a poverty relief initiative, and its members are women who manufacture their products at home. Co-op workers say the bracelet sales have significantly improved the economy in their small community. The women are also using some of the proceeds to support AIDS orphans in their own community, including taking them into their homes and building orphanages.

U of G's Masai Project was part of a larger community effort to raise $1 million for an AIDS clinic in Lesotho. The Guelph-wide project is spearheaded by local doctor Anne-Marie Zajdlik. Zajdlik will speak during the service, as will president Alastair Summerlee and student Deanna Chin, who helped chair the U of G campaign.

People should wear their bracelets to Friday's service and will be asked to raise them in the air in a symbolic demonstration of hope and commitment while Alex Kalimbira, a graduate student from Malawi, sings Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica.

"The Masai Project is close to the hearts of the Guelph community," said Summerlee, who is a member of the U of G campaign committee. "This gathering is an opportunity for people to reflect on what this campaign has meant to them personally and to consider the ripple effect, the butterfly effect, that it has had around the world."

In fact, the flags in front of the University Centre will have red butterflies on them to speak to the impact of the U of G and City of Guelph campaigns, he added.

James VanderBerg, a minister with the Multi-Faith Resource Team and another campaign member, added that support for the Masai Project was overwhelming. "Numerous campus partners came together, and collaboration lies at the heart of the campaign's success," he said.

"This is a moment of celebration and an acknowledgment of the generosity of this community."

In addition, U of G's four choirs will perform "One World in Song" Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Harcourt United Church, 87 Dean Ave., Guelph to mark World AIDS Day.

Admission is $15 general, $10 for seniors and students. A portion of the proceeds will go to support the University's Masai Project. More information is available online.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, 519-824-4120, Ext. 56982.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1