Hasani Walters, Gleaner Writer
In a partnership made official on June 11, Miss Jamaica Universe 2012, Chantal Zaky, chose the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) as one of the charities she will work with during her reign.
The JASL is an organisation 'dedicated to preserving the dignity and rights of persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and to help with the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS by providing education and other interventions to promote change'.
Zaky will take part in efforts by the group to benefit HIV-affected persons. Among them will be fund-raising events such as Friday Fest, where free counselling and HIV testing will be offered, and the Life's Work programme.
Friday Fest is in recognition of Regional HIV Testing Day and will be held on June 29 at noon at 4 Upper Musgrave Avenue,
Through the therapeutic programme, Life's Work, the JASL provides employment, among other services, to persons living with HIV.
Zaky told The Gleaner she chose to work with the organisation because she wanted to, among other things, highlight the services available to help and educate persons living with AIDS/HIV.
"The Jamaica Aids Support for Life is doing a great job in the community. I chose the Jamaica Aids Support for Life charity because I want to share my voice with a group that has proven its dedication to people living with AIDS/HIV. Lending my voice to this charity helps to increase awareness of the services available to the community in the form of support and education. These services help to ensure our health and vitality," said Zaky.
She believes her decision is an important one, as the stigma attached to persons living with the virus has over the years impacted society significantly.
"I think it's important because we all must play a role in transforming society's response to people living with HIV/Aids. It's vital to promote learning and understanding of the human tragedy of AIDS /HIV and to generate confidence in the impact we can all have on our country and communities."
Zaky's Sunshine Youth foundation will also, in August, partner with the JASL on a back-to-school drive for orphans and vulnerable children to assist in providing valuable school supplies.
She said the foundation has been growing from strength to strength and she hopes to continue working to accomplish the aims set, upon its establishment.
"It is a work in progress. Things are coming along. I have some other interests that have not been finalised yet. My aim is to educate and empower our youth with advocacy programmes, as they are the storytellers of our future. There is a lot of power in the voice of the youth," she said.