AmeriCorps Week Reflections from Team Indy

By Barney on May 23, 2011 in AmeriCorps

Throughout my time serving as an AmeriCorps Member I have had the privilege of becoming acclimated not only to the field I am interested in but was empowered to bring about significant programming and support within the same community I was raised in.

Transitioning out of college into the real world, I have been given the chance to take on leadership roles, individualize my own experience by creating my own curriculum and along with my team create a long-term project.

These long-term projects I must say have been the most significant aspect of the program to me. My first year in the program, we hosted an HIV/AIDS art show. The second year we hosted a youth conference on healthy relationships. Both years the feedback we received from attendees was similar. They wanted to know this was going to continue-that this would become an annual event.

Sustainability of a team’s long-term project who only serves one year is not necessarily feasible. On the other hand, it is feasible that we have made a path towards understanding of how an abstract concept can come into existence, that may be duplicated by others.

Each year, each team nationwide in our program puts together a long-term project, and although it is typically created as a onetime event the impact is still significant and speaks volumes to the desire for the community to have groups like ours in place to fill these gaps in the community. Perhaps the foundation of the impact these long-term projects have stem from the fact that most of our members are eager, energized, and ready to work. They have not had the opportunity to become jaded by the ins and outs of the work world, therefore bringing a fresh perspective to an idea that may have become typical and monotonous.

The AIDS United program as well as all other AmeriCorps Programs most importantly, connect people to other people, resources, information, and support for a minimal cost, while giving the AmeriCorps member the opportunity to grow.
-Ebony Barney

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as an AIDS United AmeriCorps member, this opportunity has allowed me to gain work experience in the field public health. This has been a rewarding yet challenging experience that has brought about professional and personal development. Deciding long ago that service would be one of my life’s objectives, I could not imagine not taking the opportunity to expand my skills and comfort zones through this program. I have been blessed to meet new friends and colleagues along my journey as an AmeriCorps member as well making community connections in a new city.

My main joy from this experience comes from the daily interaction I have with clients that come through the Damien Center food pantry. I have the opportunity to educate and engage people from various backgrounds, cultures, and social groups as I serve as the Food and Nutrition Coordinator. Although, not my ideal position I have took on this arduous task of being a great resource to help meet the nutritional needs of all clients. In working through my personal restraints of this position I have found enjoyment in being an aid to people. Every time I hear, “thank you,” I begin to remember my purpose and how each food pantry order is fulfilling my needs of others.

I believe that AmeriCorps is mutually beneficial to the communities in which volunteers serve as well the volunteer. My personal situation is testament of this, I graduated from college with a degree in International Relations, but I aspired to pursue a career in public health. In having no health background I was not making progress in my desired career, but the opportunity of AmeriCorps has allowed me to breakthrough this barrier and gain hands-on work experience in the field I most seek to work in. As I gain the work experience, my community gains a willing and dedicated volunteer ready to serve her community in any capacity. AmeriCorps has enhanced and challenged my skills in many capacities; helping to develop my leadership and professional abilities while satisfying my personal desire to serve my community.
-Ashley Kirkpatrick

Joining the AIDS United AmeriCorps/Caring Counts program was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. I developed an interest working with HIV in college and I could not imagine a better way to continue that work and develop my skills in the field. Working with people infected and affected by HIV truly makes me feel like I am making a difference in the lives of others and also makes me grateful for the opportunity to be able to do so.

Through my agency placement at Step-Up, Inc. and my work in their Youth at Risk program I am able to talk to youth who are currently in a juvenile detention center or drug/alcohol rehabilitation facility and give them the facts about HIV/STDs, sex education, drugs/alcohol, pregnancy, and various other topics that affect the lives of at-risk youth. Through discussions, videos, and worksheets the youth and I are able to have conversations about activities they participate in and steps they might take in the future to protect themselves and their partners.

I feel the difference AmeriCorps makes when I have a youth tell me that they are going to start using condoms or are going to talk about HIV/STD testing with their partner upon release. I feel the difference when youth from the rehabilitation facility I visit join me for various talks with other groups and bravely share their stories of drug/alcohol abuse, struggles, and recovery so that others may avoid taking that same path. I feel the difference when I reflect on my day and think of all the people I talked to, the places I have been, and the questions I have answered.
-Katie Doherty

Someone recently asked me if the work I was doing for AmeriCorps was “working.” I took a moment to sincerely ask myself if I felt I was making any kind of an impact on HIV/AIDS in the United States.
My mind immediately flew through the handful of patient interactions that have stayed with me all through my ten months in AmeriCorps. As an HIV tester in an emergency room, many of my days are filled with much monotonous testing.

With a prevalence of roughly 1 in 1,000 coming through our ER, the odds are that most of my patients will test non-reactive. However, when the reactive line on the Oraquick test shows up and I have to give news to someone who wasn’t even asking for it in the first place; these moments are the reason I am there. More than often, the reactive patient is one that comes in with a common ailment. HIV is the last thing on their mind.
Beyond the number of tests and newly diagnosed infections, there are less tangible effects. Every patient that I interact with (regardless of whether they are tested or not) has HIV/AIDS brought to the forefront of their mind. In addition, having HIV testers readily available to physicians and nurses not only reminds medical staff of this potential diagnosis, but makes testing patients with suspicious symptoms easier and more efficient.

So, yes. My work is making a difference in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I am testing more people, getting patients into care quickly, and spreading the word about the realities of the disease in our country. For these reasons, this year of service with the AIDS United/Caring Counts program will resonate with me well into my career in the health field and for the rest of my life.
-Lisa Passmore

Strongly believing in the existence of social justice for all, and becoming aware of others struggles and disadvantages are reasons AmeriCorps is so powerful. AmeriCorps’ mission clearly emphasizes the readiness to provide services to any persons, which coincides with my willingness to assist anyone regardless of circumstances; this is why I serve in AmeriCorps.

Thus far this year has been a remarkable experience and has allowed me to see firsthand what a little care can do and has inspired me to seek change within myself. To be a part of this service opportunity that allows me to further educate myself and other individuals who may suffer from disease, disability, and other economic & social challenges, moves me every day. Working within this program, I now understand the true definition of service and realize what a little can do in prolonging the life of a client.

Throughout this year I have allowed myself to be open to new surroundings and increase my leadership abilities. Through this program I have mirrored AmeriCorps mission by assisting my community regardless of class, cultural differences, and sex; there is nothing more self-fulfilling.

I recommend this program to anyone that is serious about service and is willing to put the effort in to assure change…everywhere!
-Naomi Williams

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