Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward

A New Year's Reflection, Resolution, and Prayer

The New Year gives a person time to reflect on their past and perhaps set a plan for their future. In that light…

I would like to thank the many people who have made my work possible. Ranging from family to peers, priests to government officials to former teachers, and Indian to Rwandan, each has played their own vital role of support. Over the year I researched for 5 weeks at a time in Thailand, India, and Rwanda. Each location with faces, names, stories, and experiences that taught me the meaning of compassion, fellowship, and development. My tribute to them is witnessed in all of my presentations and the “Hope & Global HIV” DVD. Too often against seemingly endless odds these people, their stories, work, and struggle, go undocumented or unnoticed. They have taught me the power of the individual to impact their community and create change. Whether acting as individuals or in concert with others, we must never underestimate the power of the individual.

My New Years resolution is already underway. I am in the process of developing a self sustaining and reproducible model that links local communities to ones I have covered throughout this last year. A full post will be dedicated to the overview and logistics of the project in the coming month.

I will leave with this Christian prayer that I have said numerous times over this past year. In each country across language and cultural barriers, I found myself hoping that I was achieving these words. For it is in them that I found much of my motivation and direction. The words espouse a deep sense of personal responsibility and call to action by making the individual the channel, the enabler. With this in mind I wish all a Happy New Year. One in which they can embrace the truth that we all have the power to make a difference.

Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Coming Full Circle

Keynote at Fairfield University Highlights Hope in Action in Global HIV/AIDS Struggle

It is a presentation I have given three times in the last two weeks. The statistics, key points, and stories flow easily as they come from the research and work I have done over the past year. The names and faces forever planted in the fields of my mind. However, this time it is different. This is my alma mater and I am speaking as the keynote for AIDS Awareness week and as the inaugural speaker for the MLK Jr. Lecture Program. The cozy and tech savvy room is full of students, friends, and former professors.

The goal of the presentation is two-fold and centers on the broader concept of hope. To begin we must draw attention to two key factors that fall into the category of grabbing the attention of the audience. The statistics that come out of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic are more than alarming. They are mind numbing: 33 million infected and 25 million deaths. And if we look at who is getting infected it is frightening – the voiceless, the marginalized, married women and young generations. But attention has two sides. We must remember the long way from which the story started. Although treatment is still not a reality for the majority of people infected, over the past five years people put on treatment in sub-Saharan Africa has increased 40 times over. We are making progress, but it is not time to rest as for every TWO people of treatment FIVE are becoming infected. In every presentation the balance has to be kept in check to instill the second goal – inspiration.

It is usually a person, sometimes an organization, but always people looking to make a difference. It is the tangible sign that action can overcome and inaction is unjust. At each speech I show a clip from the DVD I have produced to give the audience an example of both real life people living with HIV/AIDS and people making a difference in their own way. The reoccurring theme that comes through my voice and the DVD is the power of the individual to impact their community.

This night I focused on the movement already started in Rwanda. A story underreported and seldom told. A movement that sees a government working closely with international and domestic organizations and US PEPFAR officials. My voice speaks to the witness of Partners in Health’s (PIH) work providing healthcare to hundreds of thousands in rural Rwanda who before had no options. It also highlights the combined efforts of over 190 different FACEAIDS chapters across the US to raise funds for PIH and awareness of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

The presentation should show that hope is tangible but requires action. I want to inspire all people to see HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue where all can make a noted difference. I want to call attention to the issues, engender a link for advocacy, and inspire action. All people want to make a difference sometimes it is only the how, the confidence, or the first push that is needed.

The educational and motivational DVD is compiled mostly of my own photos and highlights stories of individuals and organizations creating hope in their communities. It is meant to challenge and inspire a viewer. Follow yellow texted directions on right panel to learn how to get a copy

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day

I will write an entry about World AIDS Day after my presentation at Fairfield University this Wednesday. Details of the event can be found here on the University’s website. The Wednesday night keynote will be part of the University's AIDS Awareness Week. I will be sharing from my experiences abroad and focusing on the messages and tangible stories of hope in Rwanda. It is open to the public.

I have accepted an invitation to be on the David Smith radio show. It can be heard via the internet on this website < > or on AM600 if you are in the Connecticut area. It will be on Wednesday from 1:30pm to 2pm.

A very well written and insightful article commemorating the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day can be viewed on It is titled "Much Done: Much to Do" and is by Dr. Anthony S Fauci – Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. It highlights the significant advances that have been made over this time but calls attention to the continuing struggle.

World AIDS Day is a time to remember, to reflect, and to pray. I hope you will join me in this day's calling.

After Note:

I have produced an educational and motivational DVD documenting stories of hope meant to inspire and challenge. The DVD is mostly comprised of my photos from each location and stories of individuals and organizations I have met along the way. Donate $20 or over to the Emily C Specchio Foundation, email me your address , and I will mail you a copy of the DVD. Donation is tax deductible less amount DVD cost to produce. These funds will support my work and the launch of a 2nd project called "Attention, Advocacy, and Action".