Up 4 The Fight Top Fundraiser Maja Bernstein

Maja at the airport on her way to Tanzania with EGPAF! Head over to EGPAF's Instagram profile to follow along as she explores the country and learns more about the fight to end pediatric AIDS.

Hello! My name is Maja, and I recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley (Cal) this May with a degree in Political Science. I am the 2017 Up 4 The Fight Trip to Africa winner! I am so excited to have the opportunity to travel to Tanzania this summer alongside the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) team to see the work they do firsthand. I’d love to share a bit more about how I got to be in this lucky position!

Dance Marathon (DM) at UC Berkeley is an incredible organization that partners with EGPAF to fundraise for their work to end AIDS in children. Berkeley Dance Marathon’s main purpose is to put on a 12-hour, overnight dance-a-thon in our student union as a means for students to fundraise for EGPAF’s cause.

My involvement in Dance Marathon actually began freshman year of high school back in Pennsylvania: my high school held a Dance Marathon as part of the Penn State mini-THON network.  Being involved in Dance Marathon in high school was an amazing experience, so when I saw the Dance Marathon at UC Berkeley table my first week of freshman year of college, I immediately asked for an application to join.  I was lucky enough to join Dance Marathon my freshman year as part of the Activities and Entertainment team and continue on as Activities and Entertainment Director, Deputy Executive Director, and finally this past year serve as Executive Director.

DM at UC Berkeley also puts on regular programming to educate the campus about the pediatric AIDS epidemic and hosts smaller fundraisers for EGPAF throughout the entire year. Our main educational programming is done through a DeCal (Democratic Education at Cal) course on pediatric AIDS. These courses are student run and lead with support from a department on campus.  Each semester, about 20-30 students are able to take our DeCal course, learn about the science of HIV and AIDS, the specifics of pediatric AIDS, and the work EGPAF and partnering organizations like UNAIDS do to fight this epidemic. We also put on programs open to all students like documentary screenings and speaker panels that mainly include professors from the public health departments at Cal and UC San Francisco, and activists working in HIV/AIDS community in the Bay Area.

Dance Marathon became one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career. DM gave me the opportunity to meet people from all different majors, backgrounds, and classes who have become some of my closest friends. The passion everyone shares for EGPAF’s cause is infectious and made the long hours planning the event, educating the student body, and dancing overnight for 12 hours well worth it.  I am so proud of the work that DM at UC Berkeley has done and continues to do, not only for EGPAF, but also for the student body, by putting on an event that changes the lives of not only those EGPAF works with but also the students who attend the event. Dance Marathon can feel long and exhausting, but the sense of pride and accomplishment students feel when we hear from the EGPAF ambassador and they describe how our efforts have a real and lasting impact on so many lives is incomparable and makes every second worth it.

Maja's trip kicked off on Friday, June 23. Follow along by visiting EGPAF's Instagram account.