Philadelphia center to hold HIV/AIDS awareness forum

by Orysia L. Hewka

PHILADELPHIA - The Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center of Philadelphia, located in Jenkintown, just north of Philadelphia, has initiated the first forum and open symposium dealing with the harsh reality of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine.

On Saturday, May 3, a prestigious panel of medical experts and humanitarian NGO leaders will be convened to discuss HIV/AIDS. Currently in near-epidemic proportions, AIDS has now ranked Ukraine No. 1 in Europe and No. 6 in the world in terms of infection rate.

Starting at 9 a.m. in the gallery of the Ukrainian center, community leaders from various spheres will gather to learn about this deadly disease, the status of their countrymen, infected mothers giving birth, and the vulnerable population: children, orphans and street kids. In addition, the forum's goal is to plan strategies to combat the rise of this infection. The forum is co-sponsored with the Pennsylvania Branch of the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA). Free and open to the public, the conference will be held in English (translators will be available).

An ally in this battle is the lovely spokesperson for AIDS throughout the world, Ukrainian-born Miss Universe Justine Pasek, who will be visiting the Ukrainian Cultural Center and the Philadelphia area during the weekend of May 3-4. Representing the country of Panama in the Miss Universe competition, the 22-year-old Ms. Pasek has toured the globe extensively, bringing the topic of AIDS to the public's attention.

She will arrive in a white limousine, courtesy of John Hynansky and the Winner Group, to receive a traditional Ukrainian welcome of bread and salt from the general community. The presentation of AIDS quilts, which will be donated to children in Ukraine suffering from HIV/AIDS, and the unveiling of a unique creative community endeavor, "Rushnyk Nadiyi" (Ritual Cloth of Hope), are planned. The latter is a montage of 100 hand-embroidered squares, donated by children as young as 5 to grandmothers over age 80 from all over the United States and Canada, in a joint symbol of hope that "together we can make a difference in the statistics." These will be sewn together, framed and displayed permanently in the Gallery of the UECC in remembrance of AIDS victims in Ukraine.

After the unveiling, there will be a photo opportunity with Miss Universe, which also will benefit the fund-raising effort for AIDS in Ukraine. For a small donation of $8, each person will receive two 5 x 7 color photos with this renowned beauty.

At 6 p.m., at the pre-banquet cocktail reception, the weeklong photo exhibit of Ukrainian orphans, "Starving for Color," will officially open. These works are by Dr. Roksolana Tymiak-Lonchyna of Chicago. Also on display will be exhibits by several humanitarian organizations active in children's welfare programs in Ukraine.

The black-tie banquet and ball in honor of Miss Universe and to benefit the cause of AIDS awareness will begin at 7 p.m. in the ballroom of the UECC. Among the honored guests expected are the Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States, Archbishop Stefan Soroka, Bishop Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Rep. Joseph Hoeffel, Panamanian Consul Georgia Althanopules. Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Nations Valeriy Kuchinsky, former Congressman Jon Fox and State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf.

Sharing the stage for the concert program will be the very best of the Philadelphia area's Ukrainian performing groups: the Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, the Prometheus Male Choir, the International Ballet Theater and Yuriy Melnychuk, a teen pop star from Ukraine especially invited for this event. After the banquet there will be dancing to the music of The Fourth Wave Orchestra. The donation for the gala banquet and ball, including a cocktail reception, is $50; ball only, $20. All proceeds are to benefit programs to combat AIDS in Ukraine.

On Sunday, May 4, Miss Universe will take part in a special divine liturgy celebrated by Metropolitan Soroka for the victims of HIV/AIDS and the endangered children of Ukraine at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 816 N. Franklin St., Philadelphia. An open press conference and reception will follow at noon at the Independence Visitors Center at Sixth and Market Streets, across from the Liberty Bell. Miss Universe, Philadelphia Mayor John Street, a representative of the Embassy of Ukraine, an UMANA official and others are expected to speak.

Donations during any of the events are graciously accepted. A tax-deductible fund for this fund-raising event sponsored by the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center has been opened at the Ukrainian Self-Reliance Federal Credit Union in Philadelphia under the name of UIA Childrens' Fund. Donations may be mailed to: Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center, 700 Cedar Road, Jenkintown, PA 19046. For information on any of the events readers may call (215) 663-1166.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 27, 2003, No. 17, Vol. LXXI

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