Seven days before he was scheduled to leave for Bombay, India, last summer, Andrew Klaber ’04 received a call saying the U.S. State Department had put a travel advisory on India because there was a possibility of a war with Pakistan. A week later, Klaber found himself in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he did not know anyone or speak the language. As Klaber became acclimated to Thailand, he soon realized how many Thai children had become orphans because of AIDS.
So last summer, Klaber founded Orphans Against AIDS, an organization that provides scholarships to children in the Chiang Mai province whose parents have died of AIDS. Since its founding, the organization has raised $25,000 to provide financial assistance to 200 Thai orphans. And eventually, Klaber’s missed trip to India has led him to a position in the United Nations.
Last month, the Inter-Agency Task Team on Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children, or IATT, appointed Klaber to serve on its force. The U.N. International Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, sponsors the team, which was formed in March 2001. The task team is comprised of the U.N. AIDS programs and other key partner organizations.
Klaber said the U.N. appointment would enable him to help the AIDS cause in a greater capacity.
“I felt that it was a daunting responsibility because the problem [of AIDS orphans] is so tremendous,” Klaber said. “But I also felt like it was a wonderful opportunity from a policy perspective, to help millions of children.”
Klaber said he hopes to lobby U.N. officials to change the way in which they figure census information. While the current definition of an AIDS orphan is one who is 15 years or younger, Klaber said he would like to change the definition to 18 years.
Klaber and his U.N. task force are likely to travel to sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe this summer to monitor the current situation and improve the future of the orphans. There are 13.4 million AIDS orphans worldwide, according to data from the 2002 AIDS conference in Barcelona.
He said he also hopes to expand Orphans Against AIDS by creating new chapters in countries where the epidemic of children orphaned by AIDS is emerging.
The benefactors for the Orphans Against AIDS group include the Rotary Clubs of America and Thailand, as well as Goldman Sachs.
In addition to his appointment to the U.N. task force, Klaber has received awards from Toyota, Target, Tylenol, Best Buy, Sons of the American Revolution, the Jewish United Fund, the United Way, the lieutenant governor of Illinois, and the president of the United States, for his involvement in various community activities.