Monthly Archives: August 2008
Ashley Judd joined YouthAIDS as Global Ambassador in 2002 after seeing the effects of HIV/AIDS on communities and children in the United States and around the globe. With no cure in sight, and the realization that education is the only way to prevent the spread of this disease, Ashley uses her celebrity status to speak on behalf of those without a voice and to promote YouthAIDS’ programs to provide young adults with immediate solutions for fighting AIDS.
Ashley says education and prevention is the best way to combat AIDS and HIV, which disproportionately affect women and girls and prey upon the vulnerable and less fortunate.
The actress met with HIV/AIDS orphans in India, including two sisters, ages 9 and 12, whose parents died in quick succession after their father infected their mother with the disease.
“It’s very real and it’s real stories and real heartache and also real opportunity to focus on a solution that is very cost effective and has an extraordinarily meaningful impact in the lives of young people,” Judd said.
Read Ashley’s Journal from India here, on One.org.
At age 8, Michael’s biological family gave him up to the state.
A violent, angry child, he went through more than a dozen unhappy foster homes.
About a year ago, Michael was diagnosed with an aggressive cancerous brain tumor.
Surgery left him with a crater in his skull, blind in one eye, and feeling more unwanted than ever. “He had nowhere to go after brain surgery,” said Bernice Jackson, his new foster mother. Jackson and her husband Robert decided to take in the troubled teen when no one else would, in the waning days of his young life.
“He was angry, he was bitter,” says Bernice. “Michael had gone through a lot of ups and downs in his life.”
“He didn’t like no adult telling him what to do,” Robert added.
After weeks of positive confidence building and reading the Bible, the Jacksons watched a change come over the young man. “He just began to shell off the old way,” Bernice said.
“He’s turned out to be a joy,” Robert noted. “Like I said, at first, he wasn’t a joy. We’re just happy that we could be a part of it to make a child’s life better than it was.”
Today, a gentle exterior belies the cancer raging through Michael’s body. He has been given only weeks to live. And yet, he smiles – a lot. He said it’s the first time he has felt what love is.
“Having this good family right here. Whatever I need, all I got to do is tell them, and they give it to me,” he said.
Brain surgery has taken away some of his short term memory, but Michael says he remembers getting in fights when he was younger because he was angry with his biological family. He knows he’s finally happy and at peace.
In his final, dying days, Michael has fulfilled dreams, including going to Sea World, Disney World, a Dallas Cowboys game and meeting players from the Dallas Stars. That’s positive attention a troubled kid never gets, he says.
The Jacksons’ final wish for Michael is a proper burial in a nearby cemetery. That is a dream his foster family cannot afford. The state pays a minimal amount to bury a foster child. The Jacksons say they want more for a young man who has finally — dignity.
“He’s ready to go. He’s free,” Bernice said, sitting on the hospice bed where Michael will likely pass away.
Whatever happens, Michael says he finally knows what it feels to be wanted.
For information on contributing to Michael Ybarra’s funeral fund contact Refuge House at 972-662-5112.