Thu, 20 Mar 2003

BIWA lends a hand in fight against poverty and AIDS

The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua, Bali

Over the last four months, Bali has been enshrouded in a gloomy atmosphere after the deadly bombings in October 2002, which caused overwhelming grief for the families and friends of the 202 victims, many of them foreign visitors.

On Sunday, March 9, Bali got a little bit warmer and seemed to shine again when thousands of members of the Balinese community and locals and expatriates turned out for a special event organized by the Bali International Women's Association (BIWA).

The charity bazaar, the ninth held by the association since it was first set up in l974, brought together all the association's 170 members, local businessmen, artists and humanitarian activists to lend support to BIWA's goals to raise funds to help underprivileged children and to support various HIV/AIDS programs.

BIWA president Muriel Ydo told The Jakarta Post that she was extremely happy and relieved to see the attention given by the people of Bali.

The major fund-raising activities this year will focus on three issues that are currently high on the international agenda: preventing AIDS, safeguarding a clean and healthy environment and alleviating the suffering of children.

BIWA wishes to ease the suffering and improve the lives of Balinese children in need.

"Our aim is to be able to feed, clothe, shelter and provide medical care for these children," she said.

"We haven't finished counting the proceeds from the charity. We will be channeling the money through various organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS and children," Ydo said.

She previously said the fund-raising activities were expected to bring in at least Rp 500 million to improve facilities and education opportunities for Bali's orphans. The fund will also be channeled to establish programs to educate the people of Bali about the dangers of unsafe sex and drug abuse and to promote the importance of a healthy environment.

Muriel said that of course, BIWA could not do a lot to help eradicate poverty or HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases. But at least, she said, people should be encouraged to help find resources to make all related programs work properly.

"Stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS is our goal, education and prevention is the means. Like it or not, we are all interconnected. HIV/AIDS affects us all," she said.

Empowering the community through education and prevention, she said, would help cut the risk of having a loved one fall victim to HIV/AIDS.

At the bazaar, more than 100 vendors were selling various items, ranging from toys, handicrafts, furniture and gourmet treats to textiles, fashion accessories and electronic equipment.

"This means that everybody here in Bali is still working hard despite the bombings. More importantly, they have contributed to our effort to support all planned programs," Ydo said.