Throughout my travels, I am continually amazed at the generosity of people who have opened their hearts to the cause of orphaned and vulnerable children.
Last week I attended a fundraising event for Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO) in Las Vegas, hosted by Martin Storm and his wife, Sandra Ferguson. Martin is the global president and CEO of BMM, a successful gaming software certification business with 13 offices in 12 countries around the world. I met Martin and Sandra couple of years ago when traveling with my family in Australia. They fell in love with WWO and, together with the employees at BMM, created a night to remember.
The event was at the Green Valley Ranch Hotel, where more than 200 guests lined the red carpet, eager to be photographed wearing blue pipe cleaner glasses. These blue glasses have become a symbol of our cause. Everywhere we go we encourage people to put on their blue glasses and take a look at the orphan crisis -- 153 million children in the world without permanent families, many of whom are infected with HIV. WWO works to help these children become healthy, productive members of their own communities.
It is a knock-out event. I feel immense gratitude for the people who worked so hard to make it happen, and for the guests who showed up eager to support our cause. Events like these translate into more health care, early intervention and enrichment for the orphans and vulnerable children with whom we work.
I gave a short speech expressing my deepest appreciation, and then I read a poem from a 14-year old adolescent girl and first time camper at our Camp Addis in Ethiopia. Her words were translated from Amharic to English a few days ago when camp concluded. There was nothing that I could say to these people that was even close to the truth and inspiration of this youngster's words.
Connected by love,
an example in heaven;
we've set a foundation in Camp Addis
so that there always be connection, compassion.
We will work hard and renew our hope.
The collection of people in camp is amazing.
When I think about it, just sitting here,
there won't be giving up after this.
Now we know we have people who stand beside us.
I got truth from all of you.
Today I know, doing good is beneficial to me too.
The fact that I am HIV positive does not define me.
I can be anyone,
I'm not inferior to anybody.
Camp, I can talk about you, I can sing about you.
I can be a witness to what you did for me,
I cannot explain it enough.
Today I know how to give love.
I won't forget to thank anyone who has done something good for me.
Now my life is tuned to music.
I got love in camp's ocean.
Congratulations to all my campers,
we all received love, compassion and connection.
Now we know what a true sister and brother are like.
If love and compassion are like this,
the ebbing hope is now so bright.
Now I can see hope.
By a first-time camper, age 14
Thank you to Martin Storm and Sandra Ferguson, their friends and family, and the employees of BMM.