Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

Chicago’s “Day On”: MLK Day 2011

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.”  -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This quote, read during the service day opening ceremony at a south-side Chicago Salvation army to 1,000 volunteers, perfectly embodied our experience serving the community this past Monday.  The Chicago City Year program organized a gigantic service day that took place in three elementary schools in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.  We spent the day with a diverse group of volunteers including young children, current AmeriCorps and alum, families, and corporate employees.

All volunteers set out from the Salvation Army bundled in winter clothes and escorted by city police cars around 9:30am.  It was a gusty, snowy morning but spirits were high as we walked through the neighborhood we were going to serve.

As a team, we were assigned to working at Stagg Elementary school.  The school’s project theme centered around literacy.  Stairwells were painted with motivational words and hallways displayed brightly colored high frequency words that increase in difficulty when moving from the first to the third floor of the school.  We worked on making a hands-on painted alphabet for the school’s library which will help students learn their letters.

At Guggenheim Elementary school, volunteers painted fruits and vegetables on cafeteria walls and color wheels in the art room.  They also worked to reorganize and repaint the teachers lounge to make break time more enjoyable for staff.  The walls of D.S. Wentworth Elementary school were decorated with West African Andrinka symbols which volunteers painted on the walls of all three floors in the school.

We met people serving in different capacities and, while painting our letters, were able to talk to other AmeriCorps members about their programs around Chicago.  City Year did an incredible job organizing the event which included tracing over 100 murals in three schools and preparing supplies for the different projects that were going on.

We ended the day by helping clean up the project areas and attending a closing ceremony where the Principal of Stagg Elementary school thanked us for our service to the children and the community.

In truth, the school was transformed.  The brightly colored hallways and alphabet letters brought smiles to our faces and pride to our hearts.  We could only imagine the positive impact the changes we made to the school would have on the students coming back to school Tuesday morning.

World AIDS Day in Metro Detroit

Team Detroit spent World AIDS Day at two health fairs in the metro Detroit area – four of us at the Northwest Activities Center in Detroit, and three of us at Affirmations, a prominent LGBT community center in downtown Ferndale.

A free mobile testing unit was located outside both locations. Inside the buildings, our hosted tables passed out a wealth of free HIV/STD brochures, condoms, and safe sex kits – as well as quizzing some willing participants on their HIV knowledge. Much of our day was spent taking photographs for the “Facing AIDS”  photo series. The combination of efforts resulted in close to 100 photos being posted to the AIDS.gov Flickr account.

Our team connected with many other organizations that hosted tables, and in addition to the expected groups from the metro Detroit area, several had traveled more than fifty miles to be there.

We even found a few well-connected people who would be invaluable in assisting with our long term project! We were pleased to see how many people local turned up for the events, and were excited by a few individuals we spoke to who had heard the radio event advertisements just hours before and decided to drop in!

At the end of the day, Team Detroit felt very well rewarded for the effort we put in to the events – they were much more enjoyable than we anticipated.

-Alex Krasicky

DC AmeriCorps serves on World AIDS Day

The Washington D.C. AmeriCorps team had an amazing World AIDS Day spent at the Latin American Youth Center in central D.C. The LAYC serves mainly immigrant Latin American youth in and around the DC area. The DC AmeriCorps team spent a fun-filled day of street outreach, HIV/STD/pregnancy testing and speaking to youth about the HIV epidemic in the District and how important it is for them to know their status.

To our team’s surprise, many of the young people we spoke to on the streets and in the Center were aware of the HIV problem in the area, and many were receptive to our information and getting tested. We set up a full day of sexual education workshops, games, and prizes to make the day fun and educational for the youth.

The DC team set up a red ribbon table, where teens could proudly sport their HIV awareness ribbons, and educate their peers in the process. We also encouraged the youth to write down their experiences with HIV, or their thoughts on the issue. We also provided games to help gain a realistic view on sexual practices and safety.

In the evening, many people joined at Jospeh’s House, a local house creating a loving end-of-life care atmosphere, for a candlelight vigil. There were speakers, a bagpipe player, and an opportunity for any and all people to speak briefly about those they had lost during the past year to HIV/AIDS. The evening ended with a viewing of ‘The Other City’- a compelling documentary featuring the dichotomous struggle of the have and have-not’s in DC, specifically related to the HIV epidemic running rampant in the District. The documentary also featured past AmeriCorps members and placements.

The DC team was truly inspired by the knowledge and awareness in the DC area and felt honored to do their part to help serve the District on such an eventful day.

World AIDS Day in Indianapolis!

Team Indianapolis began its World AIDS Day on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Campus. We interacted with students, telling them about our own AmeriCorps experiences. The students’ enthusiasm about AmeriCorps was truly encouraging. We also got the chance to speak with other HIV/AIDS-related agencies from around Indianapolis. It was a great time for networking and collaboration.

At the same time, the team staffed a table in the student center selling jewelry and crafts from the Imani Workshop. The workshop is a social enterprise in Western Kenya that teaches HIV positive women to make and sell high quality crafts. Due to the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, many of these women have a difficult time securing a job or accessing credit for a business loan. We had the honor of selling their beautiful goods to the students at IUPUI.

At the end of the day, the team attended a service at The Church Within dedicated to those affected by HIV and AIDS. Pieces of the Names Quilt were displayed as workers from the HIV arena spoke to the congregation about their experiences. The service concluded with song, a candle-lighting ceremony, and tying red ribbons on a wreath to commemorate those lost to the disease. After a busy day, this was a time of quiet contemplation for all of us. The ceremony was one that spoke of loss while still delivering a message of hope.
Overall, team Indy’s day was a broad reminder of past and present fights against HIV. Those lost to the disease inspire the work that is happening today. World AIDS Day is a powerful reminder of the battles still being fought in the United States and around the world.

World (of Chocolate) AIDS Day

by Annie Vulpas

In honor of World AIDS Day, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago hosted its annual “World of Chocolate” event on December 2, 2010 at the Hilton Chicago.  Our AmeriCorps team was privileged to volunteer and attend the fantastic fiesta where guests tasted chocolate creations from over 30 of Chicago’s top caterers, restaurants and chocolatiers.  The event also included a light but tasty buffet, an open bar, a raffle, music, and plenty of dancing.

It was amazing to see how many people came out to support the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  Attendance for the event was tallied at 1700 with notable visits from Governor Pat Quinn and former White House Chief of Staff and Chicago Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel.  Most guests wore a splash of red commemorating those living with HIV and those who have died of AIDS.

As a team, we were responsible for cleaning up after the event which included taking down fake pine trees and fitting them into boxes, which proved to be quite the challenge.  We also assisted in cleaning up the volunteer room, stacking chairs and folding up tables.

The event was a blast.  It was refreshing to see how many people were aware of World AIDS Day and how much pleasure they took in supporting the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  It made us feel proud of the front line work we each do everyday to help educate and reach out to people who may be at risk for contracting the disease.  Seeing everyone out that night reminded us that, despite working independently at times, we’re not alone in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Chicago.

Hola Amigos!!! National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Ashley Kirkpatrick

Team Indy participated in an annual health fair at a local community center for the Latino community. This was an opportunity for this community to receive health information along with free HIV testing and various STI testing. Although many did not attend,  the event stood as a statement for the community that there are stigmas in this community as others, and that it takes more than community health fairs to reach at-risk populations. Prevention and outreach is a laborious task and has to be done through creative methods.

Team Indy took those efforts to the street by displaying signs outside of the community center, encouraging the passing traffic to pull over and get tested.  In Indiana there are over 50,000 Latinos residing in this state and the Indiana State Department of Health reports that in 2008 there were almost 8,000 reported cases of  HIV/AIDS diagnosis.  Among these diagnosis almost 13 % of those cases are attributed to the Latino community, making it the second largest group of HIV incidences in Indiana behind African Americans. This suggests that some of the barriers that hinder prevention in the African American community could be the same among this population as well.  In observing the event it seems that language barriers would be the primary cause of lack of education and awareness in this community. We all enjoyed this educational experience and look forward to working more within this community to help bring awareness and prevention about HIV.

By Ashley Kirkpatrick

References:

Indiana Latino Institute.    http://www.indianalatino.com/english/press_release.asp

http://www.in.gov/isdh/files/Question_2(1).pdf