I took some time on Friday to walk through the World Vision One Life Experience, located at the HMV Stage at West Edmonton Mall. I read about the free exhibit a few days ago, and was interested to see how the stories of the children affected by HIV/AIDS would be conveyed.
Upon entering the exhibit, I was given an iPod Shuffle and headphones, and asked to enter a curtained area after pressing play. Participants follow the tracks of one of four children based on true stories. I was Stephen, an 11 year old from Uganda.
The path travelled included pictures of Stephen’s family and a replica of the bed he and his siblings slept in. One night, he and his brother were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, after which Stephen was forced to watch and commit horrible acts of violence. Here, I was invited to pick up a rifle attached to the wall, to feel the weight of the weapon and further immerse myself in the footsteps of the young boy. Luckily, Stephen was rescued from his captors and spent some time in a rehabilitation camp for child soldiers.
Before heading home, Stephen had to take an HIV/AIDS test. At this point, participants were directed to a clinic to sit and reflect on the possibility of infection before being provided with a piece of paper stamped either with a “+” or “-” sign. It was a bit unnerving, even though it wasn’t “real.” Stephen thankfully tested negative, and was reunited with his family.
This is a really unique exhibit because it goes beyond using statistics and images to expose the public to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other problems being faced by many countries in Africa. The One Life Experience runs until Sunday.