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HEART founder honored in D.C.

By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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More than 150 organizations submitted videos to the Portraits of Compassion video contest started by the White House Faith-based Community Initiatives Innovations project. The Health Education for Africa Resource Team (HEART), which is based in Auburn, was picked among the top five to receive Honorable Mention in the contest. Today, Vickie Winkler, R.N., founder and president of HEART, and Auburn-area resident will be at the Omni Hotel Conference Center in Washington, D.C., where she will accept an award for HEART’s educational work for women with AIDS and orphan children. “Our three-minute video will be on the President’s Web site,” Winkler said earlier this week. Winkler said she hopes the Web site video will attract more donors. HEART has an office at 311 Olympic Drive off Bell Road, staffed by volunteers. Since starting charitable work in Kenya in 2000, HEART has done seminars for 142,000 people, Winkler said. A school for orphans, ages 5 to 12, who are living with their grandmothers, is part of the organization’s efforts. An outreach arm of HEART called Women Equality Empowerment Project (WEEP) currently assists 48 women, who have full-blown AIDS, and are caring for 420 children. As part of the WEEP program, women are trained to make bed nets and uniforms, “so they earn a living in about six months,” Winkler said. In Kenya alone, 700 die daily of AIDS, and it’s estimated there will be 40 million orphans by 2010. Right now, there are some 1.6 million orphans in Kenya as a result of the AIDS epidemic. Part of HEART’s efforts to help the children involves giving them a young goat and a school uniform. The government provides free primary school education, but students must furnish their own uniform. By giving the children a female goat, they are able to breed it for offspring and then give goats to other children. HEART clinics not only educate Kenyans on AIDS prevention, but also on tuberculosis, malaria and typhoid. Winkler, who worked at Placer County Public Health for many years, has seen the lives of many volunteers, young and old, changed as a result of their work in Kenya. Volunteers are asked to pay for their own airfare in order to participate in program. The Journal’s Bruce Warren can be reached at brucew@goldcountrymedia.com, or comment at AuburnJournal.com.