John Forbes with Indian Students

This Little Light of Mine

Education empowers one man's global mission

By Donna Emert

John Forbes is an international speaker, meeting a compelling global need and serving an enormous audience – and now, the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene student is also a college graduate.

Forbes has spent the last decade reaching out to some of the 38 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV/AIDS. His ministry has taken him to Uganda, Nepal, Guatemala, China, South Africa, India and parts of Western Europe. In the past five years, he has focused on the 5.75 million people in South Africa and the 2.5 million in India who are infected with HIV.

“I am a Christian, and I developed AIDS in 2001,” says Forbes. “I had to face the reality of my own mortality and was compelled to define what I believe in.”

Forbes' personal mission -- which began as an effort to bring awareness to pastors and community leaders and to promote acceptance of HIV/AIDS infected members of those communities-- has become an international partnership with churches, schools, colleges, universities, health care facilities, NGOs and governments.

He is now providing connection between these diverse groups, to bring education, awareness and support for millions with HIV/AIDS through A Global AIDS Perspective Enterprise (A.G.A.P.E.), the non-profit organization he founded in 2003.

“Recently it clicked for me how small the world is getting. As an online student, I have incredible freedom."

Forbes’ background is in theater and his talents include acting, singing and storytelling. He found the need for additional tools as his role expanded to cross-organizational intermediary and conference organizer.

To master those skills, he has taken both live and online classes in organizational sciences at the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene. He will receive his bachelor’s degree in organizational sciences in May. He values both the online and live components of his education, he said, including the human connection.

“My adviser, Richard Reardon, helped me to frame things, and helped to guide me on how this education might enhance my calling,” says Forbes.

“John is an incredibly hardworking student," says Reardon, Associate Dean for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, and professor of psychology. "It has been a pleasure for us to work with him, both here at our Coeur d’Alene campus and as he has traveled around the globe. His calling is, of course, personal. It is his own. But I think we have helped him develop some of his natural organizational talent, and have given him some very useful organizational tools.”

Reardon was able to translate the HIV/AIDS awareness conferences Forbes hoped to present in Africa and India into University credit.

“I delivered a conference in South Africa in 2010, and one in India in 2011,” says Forbes. “All of that came out of conversations that happened in his office.”

Last semester all of Forbes' classes were live. This semester all have been online.

“Recently it clicked for me how small the world is getting,” says Forbes. “As an online student, I have incredible freedom. It was so cool to be in India, online at a friend’s place, with my head in the University of Idaho Blackboard system. Then to step outside, and there’s cows walking down the street.”

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