Following the Fellows


By Shalini Singaravelu

Before one of our psychosocial support wellness days began, a mother came up to me frantically and said, “My daughter is not doing well. I find her medication in bags, huge bags under her bed,” she explained.

“She wants to kill herself. If she hears the word HIV, she will kill herself.”

I watched the woman’s 11-year-old daughter hide behind a knitted cap, seldom taking notice of the other children around her.

While doing so, I struggled to relate my life as a middle-class,  American college graduate to this HIV-positive girl, who lives in a South African province that has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world, and many people who live in poverty.

Until I realized that I was once her too—or like her, at least.

Like a rising majority of American college students, I battled with stress, anxiety and balancing different aspects of campus life.

For a while I refused to seek help, even when at my worst. This was because I was afraid of how my friends, family and professors would react.

Experiencing hopelessness, struggling to stay upbeat and feeling surrounded by stigma made me more like this woman’s daughter than I knew.

Realizing this helped me find the words I needed to give the mother hope that things would improve.

At first glance, it often appears that we are too far from global issues to create change and though we have the greatest intention, we feel limited by differences.

In reality, as I have come to learn, human experiences connect the world in such a profound way that, even from thousands of miles apart, everyone has the power to impact another’s life.

If you are interested in reading more stories from Durban, South Africa, please visit  my blog, which is


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