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It’s hard to believe a month ago I was sitting at my desk in the downtown Indianapolis office where I have worked for the past six years, and now I’m in the AIDS epicenter of the world.
I was feeling a little uncomfortable with all this change, but now I know I’m right where I am supposed to be.
When a friend first sent me the link to World Next Door last summer, I started reading along out of a vague interest in global justice issues, drawn in by the compelling writing and gripping stories. I never imagined a year later I would be here in South Africa, experiencing some of those gripping stories myself.
I’m here because a long line of people encouraged me, challenged me and invited me to dream. Although I had studied journalism in college and always wanted to be a writer, I had ended up in a different kind of job. While I learned and grew there, I couldn’t shake my passion for writing and desire to turn it into something more.
Soon after I started reading World Next Door, I began to imagine a way that doing something I enjoyed could be harnessed into something bigger.
It was a twist in my own story I didn’t expect, but wouldn’t trade. And that’s why I’m so excited to be embedded with World Changers Academy this summer, where young South Africans are being equipped with leadership skills and invited to dream.
As HIV threatens a generation, these young people are living hope for what’s to come. In the face of bleak statistics, they are hearing, perhaps for the first time, that they were created on purpose and have gifts and skills they were meant to use.
I’ve experienced the powerful hope of that message in my own life, and I can’t wait to see the way that message is changing lives and turning the tide at the core of a vicious pandemic.
So I can warn you from experience that reading along with us this summer will likely change your life too. It might not mean boarding a plane bound for a foreign country a year from now, but you probably won’t hear these stories and stay the same.
That might be uncomfortable, but it will also be good. Because I think we we’re all meant to be World Changers.
About the Author: Jen Gunnels is a 2012 summer intern. She graduated in 2005 from Indiana University, where she studied journalism, political science and IU basketball. She loves sports, country music and the state fair and after feeling a stirring in her heart to leave her cubicle and go write, she is doing just that!