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Posted by Melissa McBride

December 1st represented the 25th year of World AIDS Day, a day recognized worldwide and dedicated to raising awareness for those struggling with HIV and AIDS. Each year, Saddleback Church members come together on World AIDS day to raise awareness, to support those living with HIV, and to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS. It is also a day to focus on those impacted by HIV&AIDS, including the over 17.3 million children orphaned by AIDS worldwide.

This year’s World AIDS Day theme was “Getting to Zero” – representing Saddleback’s commitment to the global goals of getting to zero in several key areas:

·       Zero new HIV infections

·       Zero children born HIV positive

·       Zero AIDS related deaths

·       Zero stigma related to HIV & AIDS

In additional to these international goals, Saddleback has adopted our own goal related to the cause of orphans. The issues of HIV and orphans are inextricably linked – in Africa alone there are over 14 million children orphaned by AIDS, and children who grow up as orphans are at much higher risk for HIV. Saddleback is coming alongside the Rwandan government in their goal to close all their orphanages and place those children into families. We hope to reach the goal of zero children in Rwandan orphanages by 2014.

Saddleback’s Arts Initiative Ex Creatis chose to highlight the “Getting to Zero” themes on World AIDS Day weekend at Saddleback with a visual art piece, emphasizing these ways that one person can make in the fight against AIDS and “getting to zero.” They used sculpture as the medium to involve the church at the Lake Forest campus.

“We made a huge, colorful installation of about 5,000 balloons. We started with red, and, by the end of Sunday night, we’d turned all the balloons to white,” says Jason Leith, Director of Ex Creatis. “We wanted people to be a part of the day in a very symbolic way, and to turn something they’re consuming into something they’re participating in. We wanted to activate every part of a person.”

Throughout the weekend, participants popped red balloons and replaced them with white balloons on the patio of Saddleback’s main campus. The artists hoped to symbolize replacing hopelessness and loneliness with the hope of reaching the getting to zero goals and helping over 3,000 Rwandan orphans find families.

“Families and strangers were constantly around the piece and experienced church in a completely different way,” said Jason. “Our goal was to show them that there is a huge power behind lots of individuals coming together and working toward the same goal, to help them know they are a part of the movement.”

It’s not too late to make a real impact is in reaching the goal of zero children in Rwandan orphanages. Through the Saddleback Orphan Sponsorship program, sponsors can help a family in Rwanda take in an orphan from the orphanage so that they are a son or daughter and not an orphan anymore. Sponsorship helps an orphan find a family of their own, as well as provides for school and medical fees. Become a sponsor today at www.saddleback.com/sponsorship.

While World AIDS Day may be over, Saddleback remains committed to all the getting to zero goals. To learn more about what you can do or how to get involved, please visit http://hivaidsinitiative.com/gettingtozero/.



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