Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps Week in Tulsa

For AmeriCorps week 2011, Team Tulsa headed west to Clara Waters Community Correctional Facility in Oklahoma City. The facility, which sits right next to the biggest theme park in Oklahoma, holds about 275 men. It is a step below minimum security (note the word community in the title) and the offenders are allowed to walk around freely for the most part.

Team Tulsa headed down with former AmeriCorps member, Michelle Sullivan, for a health fair at the correctional center. Every one of our host sites was represented at the health fair along with many other organizations, including the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Guiding Right, Inc. and many more. The most popular booth seemed to be the ones that offered either candy or essential hygiene products, like toothbrushes and toothpaste, but offenders were encouraged to visit all the booths.

During the health fair, many of the booth representatives taught classes in another building. Our own Danielle Matheny taught a packed class about Hepatitis C transmission, prevention, testing and treatment. The offenders were offered a cookie and a toothbrush if they attended a class, an offer which many took advantage of.

Overall, the health fair was a major success. The offenders were able to socialize, snack and gain valuable knowledge about their health, both inside the facility and out. The health fair also gave Team Tulsa the opportunity to see inside one of Oklahoma’s many correctional facilities, and hear the stories of the men who reside there.

HIV Theatre in New Mexico for AmeriCorps Week

On May 19 and May 20, Team New Mexico presented Voices behind the Virus: A performance based on the true stories of New Mexicans living with HIV.  The performance took place at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe, and at the Filling Station in Albuquerque, and was part of a series of events for AmeriCorps week.   The events both featured free, anonymous HIV testing, with rapid testing sponsored by Southwest CARE Center at the Santa Fe performance, and testing sponsored by the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Network at the Albuquerque show.  We hosted receptions during both performances, with food sponsored by the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism.

Tickets to the show were sold for a suggested donation of 10 to 15 dollars.  Proceeds were matched by AIDS United and went to benefit Camp Corazones, a Santa Fe camp for children affected and infected by HIV that recently began experiencing financial difficulties.  Much of the HIV/AIDS community in New Mexico had rallied to support Camp Corazones and we thought this was a great cause for our performance.

Devin Peterson of Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity

From left to Right: Southwest CARE case manager Adam Lord, AmeriCorps Volunteer Emily Knittle, and Southwest Care case manager Chris Weber

Voices began as an idea to portray first person narratives of people living with HIV through monologues style theatre.  Our goal was not only to give voice to those infected by HIV, but also to educate, create awareness, and provide insight and perspective in to their lives.

Robert Sturm of the New Mexico Community AIDS Partnership and Jewel Cabeza de Vaca of Camp Corazones

Maggie Cunha, AIDS United and AmeriCorps volunteers AJ Ben and Amy Rumack

We began by conducting interviews with community members, and compiled portions of those interviews verbatim into a script.  We were also fortunate enough to have the assistance of Skye Fort and Diana Delgado, two UNM Theatre and Dance students who took the script and turned it into a performance.  Skye and Diana began rehearsals about one month before our scheduled performances, and were able to develop and create several original pieces inspired not only by peoples’ stories, but also by prevention materials, condoms and HIV testing.  The performance featured several short skits on condoms including a demonstration, and also rapid testing being acted out on stage.  It also dealt with the issue of medication and HIV treatment, and illustrated the difficulties and overwhelming nature of treatment.  Several stories were told through monologues which were broken up into parts during the performance.  The stories and performance pieces ranged from powerful, emotional and thought provoking, to inspirational and light-hearted.

AmeriCorps volunteers Tim Zaccaria, AJ Ben, and Amy Rumack

From left to right: Craig McAdams, Drew Morrison, Tori Corcoran, Diana Delgado, Laurel LeDoux, Nate Warren, Christie Carter, Skye Fort

It was amazing to listen to some of the feedback we received from those who attended, particularly those whose stories were used in the performance.  Since the performance, we have received interest from other organizations interested in hosting a performance of Voices.  We filmed both the performance and rehearsals, and we plan to distribute the video among prevention programs around the state, as well as to other organizations interested in using the performance to educate about HIV.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was willing to sit down with us and share their story.  We would also like to thank our producer Skye Fort and director Diana Delgado; as well as the actors: Nate Warren, Drew Morrison, Christie Carter, Craig McAdams, and Tori Corcoran; and crew: David Torres and Joe Montoya.  We would also like to thank the New Mexico Commission on Community Volunteerism for sponsoring our event.

Team Carolina Joins the Fight Against Hunger for AmeriCorps Week

“I haven’t met you yet, have I?” a man cordially asked me, as I ventured onto the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Raleigh, N.C. farm, along with dozens of fellow AmeriCorps members.

He was correct. We had not met yet, so I introduced myself as Denechia Powell of Georgia, proud member of AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Carolina. We shook hands, he learned that I was a Georgia Bulldog, and I learned he was a Tar Heel devotee.

It was not until later that I realized the man I had chatted with was Mr. Bob Eaves, husband of Governor Bev Perdue and the First Gentleman of North Carolina. Mr. Eaves had been invited to the farm in honor of AmeriCorps Week, which was observed this year from May 14 to May 21, 2011. AmeriCorps Week gives AmeriCorps members a chance to come together and show local, state, and federal government officials how invaluable our service is to our communities.

AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Carolina, along with other local groups, including Access JobLink AmeriCorps and Public Allies North Carolina, gathered at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s farm on Thursday, May 19, 2011 to get our hands dirty planting vegetables. We learned that the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle strives to end hunger in the community by recovering food from local donors (6.7 million pounds of food are projected to be recovered in 2011). The innovative non-profit operates a farm in Raleigh and another in Carrboro, N.C., where produce is grown to be sold at local farmer’s markets and at-risk youth are instructed on how to develop their own gardens.

Our time on the farm not only provided us with an opportunity to give back to our community, but also a chance to meet other AmeriCorps members and share our experiences. We also learned eye-opening facts about farming. For example, did you know that only three percent of the population in the United States grows its own food? You really do learn something new every day as an AmeriCorps member.

As we surveyed the rows of freshly planted vegetables at the end of our day of service, Team Carolina was amazed at how much we were able to accomplish in such a short period of time. It is our hope that our service project, along with the many others completed across the country during AmeriCorps Week, serves as proof that a world without AmeriCorps would be a bleak one indeed.

Team NOLA: AmeriCorps Week in the Garden

For our long-term project, we are creating a community garden. Our mission is to provide a safe, social space for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and to promote awareness.

In observation of AmeriCorps Week, we held an event in the garden. Flyers, emails, and Facebook invitations were sent out to friends, community members, and local HIV/AIDS agencies. This outreach explained the mission of our garden and highlighted the contributions of AmeriCorps. We delivered brochures about AmeriCorps to the community center across the street from the garden.
During our event, volunteers helped pick up rocks and broken glass from the ground. Others started building a wooden fence in the back of the garden. They dug holes, inserted fence posts, then mixed & poured concrete.

Later we nailed slats to the fence posts and painted it with primer & sealant. Two members of Team Carolina were in town visiting and graciously took some time out of their vacation to help us out.

Over the past few months we’ve battled fire ants, hornets, weeds, and the hot Louisiana sun. We’ve picked up garbage, dug up rocks, whacked weeds, poured poison over ant hills, and consumed lots of water.

And it’s not over yet.

We’re currently working on painting a mural on the wooden fence in the back of the garden. It will be unveiled to the public on June 30th during the New Orleans National HIV Testing Day Event. So stay tuned!

For more pictures, visit our facebook page.

Team DC gears up for its 2nd annual long term project at DC Public Libraries

AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Washington DC is excited to announce its 2nd annual long term project, joining forces with the DC Public Library system to commemorate 2011 National HIV Testing Day. Team DC will be conducting a two-day HIV testing effort at multiple public libraries in the metro DC area.

Events on Friday, June 24 will consist of smaller-scale testing events at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, Petworth, Benning, and Anacostia Public Libraries. On June 25 we will host a large-scale testing event of free HIV testing, community resources, condom demonstrations, games, prizes, and a public screening of the community-made documentary ‘The Other City’, which follows several DC residents’ stories of living with HIV/AIDS as well as outlines the epidemic that affects the Washington DC community (

Team DC is currently busy getting the word out to agencies, media, and the community at large. We hope to have the full community’s support as we proceed in our effort to sustain HIV testing in public libraries.

Mission Accomplished: Team Chicago’s Long Term Project

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.