Mission Accomplished: Team Chicago’s Long Term Project

By vulpas on June 7, 2011 in AmeriCorps

As everyone who joins the AIDS United AmeriCorps Caring Counts program knows, the idea of creating a long term project and executing it within approximately ten months is extremely daunting.  But not at the beginning.  In the beginning, each member thinks of all of the amazing projects that a motivated group of individuals can accomplish.  There’s a sense of “we can do anything!” that comes out during the first few 5th day meetings when team members bounce ideas around.  Eventually, two or three months into the service year, team members start feeling that there isn’t anything they can accomplish together.  The project ideas that bounce around become simpler and seemingly more attainable but finding a consensus seems utterly impossible.

For our team, there was a day when one of our members put all of our ideas into perspective and our long term project was discovered.  We knew we wanted to reach out to young people with limited access to education about safe sex.  We knew, as a team, we wanted a part of the project to include outreach in the Chicago community and a part that would provide solid education and a chance for young people to ask questions.

After encountering various obstacles and regrouping to come up with some different ideas, we decided to work in collaboration with a neighborhood YMCA to put on a health fair for high school-aged young people in South Chicago.  We worked hard to raise funds for the project which included organizing a bar event, writing letters to companies for in-kind and cash donations, and soliciting friends, family members and coworkers for donations on our IndieGoGo website.  We ended up raising around $1,300 for the project which was more than enough to buy supplies and a hefty amount of raffle prizes.

Despite some rather unfortunate weather, we had a solid turn-out at the event.  At all times someone was having an HIV test and being counseled on how to protect themselves.  We provided condoms and various pamphlets to young people aged 13-19 who were interested in our services.  Team members made flashy posters displaying information about HIV and STIs.  We also included a question activity where people could pick a question and try to answer it or find the answer on the board.  The questions focused on common myths about HIV and STIs.

The event ended with our raffle which included prizes like iPod Nanos, Target gift cards, Chicago Transit Authority passes, and the grand prize of a one-year membership to the YMCA, our hosts.  Many of the attendees who stayed until the raffle won a prize and people left smiling.

We learned a lot about working as a team and collaborating with other organizations throughout this project.  One of the most important lessons we learned was how to be flexible.  Everything demanded us to think flexibly and plan flexibly for unforeseen obstacles that we may encounter.  We learned to plan ahead and consider everything and anything that could get in our way.  It was an experience that tested our patience and creativity but, in the end, was a success.

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