2010 Fellows Kel Sheppey and Ben Dubin-Thaler

Kel Sheppey

2010 Social Innovation Fellow Kel Sheppey asked conference participants on Friday to imagine themselves in a place about as far from the Camden Opera House as possible.

“You live in Zimbabwe, you have AIDS, and the nearest clinic is 70 miles away,” he said. “Most of the AIDS-infected people in Zimbabwe live in conditions just like these.”

As a way to combat the spread of AIDS, Sheppey came up with Wild4Life, an AIDS awareness and testing organization that collaborates with wildlife conservation groups, reaching remote communities and educating them about the importance of AIDS testing and education.

“Everything starts with testing,” he said. “When we began the program, we shot for about 45 percent of the first group being tested. What happened was that 85 percent got tested, and by the third group it was close to 100 percent. If you want people to test, test them in groups.”

The group model’s success led to more revelations about the importance of community awareness and relationships in stopping the spread of AIDS in rural areas. “Working in groups in these communities removes the stigma of testing and encourages healthy behavior,” he said.

Sheppey said the goal for Wild4Life is to create a menu of programs tailored to specific communities. By partnering with other organizations, using conservation groups as an extended network, Sheppey hopes to completely stop the spread of AIDS by leveraging influence within communities.

“We have to imagine what could happen if we got all of this right.”

Ben Dubin-Thaler

2010 Science and Public Leadership Fellow Ben Dubin-Thaler drives a bus. Dubin-Thaler, a biologist and founder of Cell Motion Laboratories Inc., drives the BioBus, a repurposed transit bus outfitted with a high-tech science lab that serves as a mobile laboratory to get kids interested in science.

“Students get on the bus and get exposure to real hands-on science,” Dubin-Thaler says. “It’s a great opportunity for them to see what real science looks like.”

The BioBus has been featured in a number of publications and even made an appearance on the The Colbert Report. “We got to collect samples of Steven’s white blood cells.”

The BioBus can even make watching paint dry exciting. “We showed a group of kids a microscopic slide of paint drying,” he said. “They thought it was cool.”

Sadly (at least for PopTech), the BioBus couldn’t make it to Camden because of a prior engagement in Washington, D.C., but look for it coming to a neighborhood near you.

(Photos: Kris Krüg)

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