Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with an NGO called GAPA. It started as a group of college friends who got together and talked about the epidemic that was killing their friends and lovers, their original focus was to understand HIV/AIDS and to find ways to help their community.Today, GAPA is an organization that not only offers legal and social support for people who are affected by HIV/AIDS but they also are an organization that fights against human rights violations, policy reform, and are active in community empowerment.
During my time learning about this organization I met with a gentleman with a powerful story and an important message. He told us about how GAPA saved his life 20 years ago and for the past 17 years he has worked within this organization and the judiciary system as a “peace promoter”. These “peace promoters” are given authority by the state to resolve various conflicts, mostly they deal with human rights issues and in educating the public about their rights as a citizen and a human. They also report when rights are being violated such as unequal access to medications or employment dismissal” due to a medical condition.
He opened up about the mistreatment he received from his family and community due to his health status. The question on everyones mind was if he still lived within the same community that had persecuted him 20 years ago. His response was that it was his home, next year he will become a professor in the public school system and he still intends to stay within the same community in order to keep being an instrument of change.
This really got me thinking, here was a man who 20 years ago needed help and what he did with the knowledge acquired has been amazing. He didn’t retain this information for his own benefit, he used his experience and new knowledge to change his community. Today, he says that people in his community respect him and many come to him for advice or to seek support. His parting words to me were: “knowledge is multiplication”.
So know I ask, what do you intend to do with the knowledge you have acquired? How can you multiply that knowledge? There are many student organizations that could use your skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm. A great place to start is right on campus!
If you would like to learn more about GAPA and the work they do feel free to visit their FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/gapabahia/