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"Don't let a day go by without asking someone, 'Do you know about HIV?'"

Story by JAPANetwork Director, Louise Haynes

Carol Burnett, Louise Haynes

"Together Again for the First Time" - Meeting Carol

Carol Burnett has brought laughter to millions in the US and in other countries. For me, the bug bit at 13. Starstruck and addicted to the TV screen every Saturday night, through her show, I started my first lessons in movie history. Sometime later I learned that the original star of "The Little Foxes" was not Carol Burnett, but Bette Davis. I read everything I could about Carol. I imagined we had something in common in that we both made friends by being wacky, crazy, by making people laugh. It was then that I made a secret wish that some day I would meet her, and we would be friends forever.

Well, it took 24 years, but the first part of that wish came true.

In 1994, (I was living in Barcelona at the time) a friend of mine called and said Carol was going to be the first recipient of the Carol Burnett AIDS Commitment Award, to be given in November, in Long Beach, CA. My friend knew the organizers and got us tickets and also admission to the cocktail party before the award dinner. I flew into LA for the event, and I was introduced to Carol! (Ones legs DO turn to jelly in such moments, and cats abscond with tongues.) Carol was very gracious, warm and natural. During her acceptance speech she made some comments about how there needs to be more education about this virus, in order to combat the stereotypes and prejudice against those living with it. "Don't let a day go by," she said, "without asking someone, 'Do you know about HIV?'"

"I Cain't Say No" - to such a great suggestion!

After I returned to Barcelona, it took a few weeks to get my head out of the clouds and come back down to this other reality. And then I got to thinking about how I could help... I had been touched by the epidemic, having lost friends to this disease, but I had never been active in trying to stop the spread of it. I started teaching a little, getting my feet wet by using an ABC news video in my classes. The response was positive, the students wanted more and accurate information. At the time, I knew I wanted to move back to Japan, where I'd lived several years before... One day driving on the freeway I "saw" the name JAPANetwork (Japan AIDS Prevention Awareness Network) and its logo in my mind.

"Fortuosity" - meeting the right friends

So, once I got settled back here in Nagoya, I started letting friends know about the group I was forming, and asking people for their help. Then later, at the 95 JALT Conference, I met others around the country who were interested in teaching about HIV/AIDS. That's how our core group got started. One of those people in Hokkaido, Bob Gettings, organizes our Internet Web site and newsletter. Another in Tokyo, Donald Fountaine, helps out with fundraising. Susan Gilfert, my right hand here in Nagoya, is my computer-wizard grant writer. Alice Lachman is our TESOL link and is a bundle of energy and support for us, and also represented JAPANetwork at the First Pan Asia Conference in Bangkok, Thailand in January, 1997.

JAPANetwork's Work

JAPANetwork is a volunteer group of educators throughout Japan who are interested in teaching the topic of HIV/AIDS in their English language classrooms. JAPANetwork offers free PHOTOCOPIABLE lesson plans at three levels, (basic, intermediate and advanced) and teacher's guides to anyone who asks for them. We publish a newsletter with teaching ideas, news updates, editorials, Internet Web site addresses and more. We have a "lending library" of HIV/AIDS related videos, copies of articles from various newspapers and magazines, and other teaching materials including games available in English and some in Japanese for high school levels.

The website offers information to teachers on ideas for the classroom, links to other sites, news updates and an article about HIV/AIDS in simple English that they can copy and use in class. There are also web pages for students. They can access these pages at home or in a classroom that has Internet capabilities. The students' pages have three levels, basic, intermediate and advanced, with reading passages, quizzes and other activites for each level.

"Give a Little, Get a Little"

So far, we've been able to offer all of the JAPANetwork materials free of cost. Anyone who would like to be on our mailing list to receive the newsletter need only send me their name and address. We are, however, open to any donations people are able to give to help cover copying and postage expenses.

ALSO... In '97 we sponsored the JAPANetwork AIDS Poster Contest. Theme: "AIDS in Japan can be prevented." English language students to produced posters in "manga" style which were judged in the summer of 1997. The winning poster was displayed at the 1997 JALT conference in Shizuoka.

If you'd like to join us...

We are always looking for more volunteers to help out. There are many things that individuals can do that don't take a lot of time. Most people think they have to take on a lot of responsibility when it comes to volunteering. That's not what I want JAPANetwork to be because I know how busy everybody is. I think that the most important thing is for people to talk about HIV/AIDS and get the word out. That's volunteering right there. And if they tell another teacher about us and our materials, that's another link. And if they can put an ad in their local paper where other teachers can see us, word will get out that we're here. If I can teach 10 people it'll help, but if I can teach 10 teachers it'll help even more.

Other activities we do - and encourage volunteers in their areas to do - are to hold candlelight memorials/parades on December 1st, World AIDS Day; to talk to university or community groups; to write articles for our newsletter; to cut out articles they find in newspapers and magazines and send them in for our library; to research latest info on AIDS research; to think up new ideas on how to teach and how to get students involved with educating EACH OTHER... the list goes on and on. Everyone can help out in some way.

JAPANetwork has been in existence since April of 1995. Since then I have learned so much. I didn't really know many details about HIV/AIDS, but through reading and receiving newsletters from places like AIDS Project L.A., I've learned an awful lot. That's all it takes really, just keeping your eyes and ears open. I've also talked to a lot of people. An interviewer once asked me what the goal of JAPANetwork is... I told him "to go out of business." When there is no more need for AIDS education our job is done.

"Watch What Happens" - What's in the future?

A university student once asked, "How can Japanese people change their attitudes toward AIDS?" I answered, "Well, I think one of two things can happen. Either Japanese people will become well educated about this virus, and learn that it's not easy to catch, thereby decreasing fears and promoting compassion for those who are living with it, and then protect themselves by ALWAYS using a condom correctly, from start to finish, knowing who their partners are, etc. OR, what has happened in so many countries will happen here. When YOU know someone, the neighbor next door, your partner at work, a friend, a brother or sister, your mother or uncle or someone you love very much, when someone close to you becomes infected with this virus, you, too, will want to learn more."
I don't want to see that happen here. And education is the only way to prevent that from happening. So until this virus is eradicated from our lives, the future holds much more of the same - educating our friends, our families and our students!

This page found at: http://www.japanetwork.org/students/jnstory.html

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