Alumni travels to Africa to promote AIDS Awareness

January 19, 2010 — by Lauren Kuan and Rebecca Nguyen

After graduating Saratoga High in 2007, aMichael Nguyen, a junior at UC San Diego studying human development, decided to go to around Tanzania last fall to teach HIV/AIDS awareness through One Heart Source, a program that helps house orphans in Africa.

Nguyen felt that it was an opportunity he would not want to miss.

“I felt that I’m in college and it’s one of those things where it’s a chance in a lifetime like when else are you going to have time to go abroad and try to help someone else,” said Nguyen. “It gave me a lot more perspective about the pandemic outside of the United States border.”

Although the culture was bound to be different, Nguyen enjoyed his trip upon arrival.

“When I first got there, I was really excited and the people and culture were very friendly. The environment is different because time feels a lot slower there,” said Nguyen. “In Africa, no one really cares about the time because it is just the flow of life, which is pretty cool.”

Nguyen, however, did not have an easy time for his whole trip: He ended up contracting malaria as well as amoebas.

“I had to be hospitalized for about six hours, but I was only hospitalized for amoebas and not malaria,” said Nguyen. “I got very dehydrated and they needed to hook me up to an IV because I wasn’t cleaning my hands as well as I should have.”

Nguyen’s trip was filled with valuable memories, but one sticks out most from the rest. He remembers when the first two kids came from the orphanage that they were building and they moved on to a new home.

“It was a pretty cool day since I waited the entire program for kids to come in,” said Nguyen. “It was a heartwarming moment because the two kids came from another orphanage where there was only one mom for about 30 kids.

With all of his experiences in high school and Africa, Nguyen advises students to take chances.

“Just keep your mind open because, when you come to college, there’s plenty of opportunities so don’t be scared to pursue them. If it sounds cool, then you should just do it,” said Nguyen. “I feel as if I learned more than what other people learn through this experience.”

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