Team Indianapolis participates in correctional facility’s inaugural AIDS Walk

By passmore on October 11, 2011 in AmeriCorps

Team Indianapolis participated in the first ever New Castle Correctional Facility AIDS Walk on August 27th. The event was organized through Step Up, Inc.’s Tommy Chittenden and the Correctional Facility Chaplain, Joy Pinegar. Each Team Member took a moment to reflect on the time we spent talking with these men, and below are those comments:

“I attended the Prison AIDS Walk at the New Castle Correction Facility with my AmeriCorps Team Indy. We were there to provide support and hand out watermelon and water. When the walk began, the inmates who had volunteered to walk were grateful and appreciative of our presence. As a team, we cheered for them as they completed lap by lap. I remember two inmates whose faces lit up every time we clapped and cheered for them. It brought a sense of humility to know that simple gestures of kindness go a long way and we should never take for granted any support that we have in our individual lives. The day ended well where we were in turn fed hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and punch. I am glad I had the chance to be part of their lives.”

“Handing out watermelon seems like a simple task-one that would take little time and be another piece to a good meal. What I experienced by handing out watermelon was more of a great thankfulness and joy. The men we served were thankful to have fresh fruit before them, and welcomed the fact that we did not have utensils or plates. How beautiful it is to see the simplicity in the watermelon, and to apply that idea to life. I learned that I could be so appreciative of what I had, and that I can see these little things in everyday life.”

“Assisting with the New Castle Correctional Facility’s AIDS Walk was an experience I will not soon forget. Upon entering the facility and beginning work on the walk I quickly realized how different this experience was going to be than I had expected. In order to walk each of the men had given money from their commissary.  Because these men work for all that money or are given it by their family, I found this gesture to be quite the example of charity. After the walk had finished and the men were enjoying some watermelon and water we were able to get to know some of them. One man had been an AmeriCorps member and was very informed about the NGO community of Indianapolis, something I would have never expected. He reminded us to take every memory we can from this experience and to enjoy what this year provides. Other men were speaking about the AIDS quilt that the men in the facility were making, I believe they said there were above 75 squares already made, a number I never would have thought. In the end, I am very happy to have been able to assist in the first of hopefully a new tradition of correctional facility AIDS walks. Meeting and speaking with so many men was an experience I value; it allowed myself and, I believe, my fellow teammates to see a side of these men that is not normally recognized but is important to grow for the better of everyone.”

“I have never had experience working with a prison population, and I have to admit that I was slightly apprehensive about how the men would react to us. However, I was floored at how friendly, polite, and thankful the men acted toward each of us. It surprised me with how quickly many of the men opened up to us. One man in particular sticks out in my mind; he asked several of us for our reasons for joining the AIDS United AmeriCorps program. While we all have our own reasons, none of us mentioned knowing anyone infected or affected by HIV or AIDS prior to joining the organization. He then shared with us that his reason for walking that day was because in the last year, he had an uncle and a cousin both died from AIDS-related complications. This story impacted me so much because it made me realize just how much this preventable disease can ravage an individual life – even if a person is not infected. This man’s story opened my eyes to some of the non-clinical effects of the disease, and I am so grateful that he was kind enough to share his story.”

This experience was an opportunity for team members to reach out and engage a population that is not usually afforded the opportunity to contribute to non-profits and charities. Working with Tommy and Joy, we hope to engage more Indiana prisons and future AmeriCorps teams in many more of these events.

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