Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps Team Chicago Participates in Make a Difference Day

photo of Team ChicagoOn Saturday, October 23, our team volunteered with our team member Tracy Gallagher’s host agency the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project (CWAP) at their annual Positive and Powerful, We’re Still Standing! conference.  The conference was an all-day event at the University of Illinois at Chicago and included a presentation by keynote speaker Waheedah Shabazz-El, empowerment workshops, movement workshops, a raffle and awards.

A week earlier, on Friday, October 15, we got together as a team at CWAP and prepared boxes of games and toys for the children who would be at the conference with their mothers.  We also organized fliers and made folders for the participants.

When we got to the conference, we each had different roles.  A few of the team members worked at the registration table, getting participants signed in and pointing them in the right direction to rooms that were spread out over three floors.  Others helped set up food, showed participants where their workshops were, and passed out information.  During the movement workshops, which included stepping and salsa, a few members of the team joined in learning the dance moves and mingling with participants.

What struck us most as a team were the various faces and ages that came through the door, giving light to who exactly we were serving: everyone. It wasn’t like magic to see them light up when we said there was breakfast, nor was it unbelievable that they smiled when we smiled, grateful to receive a break from their daily lives. What it was was real life and seeing how offering someone child care, meals, and exciting activities really meant a lot to women who traveled from all over the city to make it. What we recognized as a team is our obligation to servicing communities in need as they are dedicated to come when people provide opportunities for empowerment. Just being there and assisting however we could was a shot of reality: yes we made a difference and yes it was absolutely appreciated.

The event was really fun and, thanks to Tracy’s leadership, everything went smoothly.  We were able to spend time supporting the participants who were living with HIV/AIDS in a way that was outside of our usual professional role.  We were able to meet their children, shake their hands and help them in ways that testing and counseling doesn’t let us. In order to recognize the humanity of the situation, that we are not dealing with clients but with people who have needs, that made a world of difference for us. We are thankful for the chance to see a different color in the spectrum of being in service to our community.

- Annie V. and Phillip W., Team Chicago

AmeriCorps “Make A Difference Day” in North Carolina

Team North Carolina took a break from our placement sites and spent October 23rd, 2010, Make A Difference Day, at the Durham Rescue Mission just outside of downtown Durham, North Carolina.  The team arrived bright and early on a chilly, but gorgeous Saturday to do landscaping and gardening for the Rescue Mission that serves those homeless and in need.  After a quick orientation and a lovely brunch (featuring cake, coffee and pizza) we joined several other volunteers for a beautification project outside that took several hours to complete.  It was well worth the work, however, as we took out weeds, overgrown plants and trees and replaced them with gorgeous flowers that will have the strength to survive and prosper throughout the winter.

Half of the garden before Team North Carolina got to give it a make-over.

This experience gave the team a unique opportunity to connect on a deeper level to various other members of our beloved community.  It was an opportunity to see humanity and to work directly for a tangible goal to beautify a community building and strengthen organization that offers a safe haven for so many members of our community that need that hope more than anything.

The Team is hard at work removing some overgrown and very stubborn plants

Being able to sit down and work with other volunteers was also a blessing for Team North Carolina as we received a warm welcome from Durham Rescue Mission representative Delaner Venable and other church volunteers, high school students and North Carolina Central University volunteers.  To see their resolve helped us to rejuvenate our own and really showed the pride that other locals have for their town.  Nurturing the garden together, in turn, really helped to nurture our team’s bond with the community and with each other.  Planting flowers and uprooting weeds and dead plants was the perfect representation for what we are all striving to do in our local communities.  We hope that through our work our communities will be able to shed what is holding them down and replace it with growth, beauty and inspiration.  Ultimately, we are committed to not only making a difference for one day, but to making a difference for years by creating sustainable change and leaving a lasting legacy.

Denechia, Susan, Brittany and Geoff all posing in front of a section of the garden. We were all dirty and tired but most certainly satisfied with a hard day’s work!

Indiana AIDS Walk

Team Indy committed to assisting with setup, teardown, and working the day of the Indiana AIDS Walk & Ride.  It was pleasure to be able to work alongside so many partners of the Indiana AIDS Fund, local community groups, college organizations, and families.

The day before we spent about four hours setting up for the next day moving supplies to setup for canopies, dozens of cases of water, boxes, and just about anything else that needed to go to the park for the walk.  The day of for the AmeriCorps Team started promptly at 6:00am and finished around 7:00pm.  A 13 hour day that actually seemed to go rather quickly reflecting on everything that we did.

Team Indy 2009-2010 minus our Dearest Chloe Sidley (Alumni not including current members Left to Right: Amanda Quillen-Damien Center, Kyle Bonham-Life Care)

Team Indy 2010-2011 after an intense day of Getting Things Done

First thing in the morning was setup of canopies, tables, chairs, quilts, and health fair vendors.  Then we “tested out” the bounce house to be sure it was safe for the children.  We had a chance to mingle and be sure that all the health fair vendors had what they needed.  We even came up with ideas for a few new fifth days from meeting people in the field.  Second year members got a chance to chat with alumni but only for a moment, as eventually we split in half to place route monitors on the path of the walk downtown Indianapolis.  The path began at Meridian Street, went around monument circle, down the canal and back to the park.

The walk raised a total of $171,455.  There were more teams, participants, and volunteers than in the past.  All the funds will go towards DEFA to assist with emergency shelter, utilities, food, medicine, and other daily living needs.

Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day-Team Indy

The team went to a local restaurant called 45 Degrees where Indy Pride (a local nonprofit seeking to educate and honor the GLBT communities) helped organize an event to raise funds to support clients.  October 30, 2010, immediately following the local production of Mary Poppins, there was a fundraiser that went to benefit the Indiana AIDS Fund and Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.  There was a silent auction and the cast of Mary Poppins as well as local patrons exhibited their talents on stage.

We decided to participate in the event as a way to recognize National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

As a sort of “part two” on November 2, 2010 as part of the National Gay Men’s HIV Awareness Day, the team participated in a Drag Show called Sober Sirens.

The Indiana AIDS Fund “Team King” had a group of people who used to be substance abusers come together and decided for this to be the first year they put on a drag show fundraiser.

The team spoke at intermission about getting tested for HIV, and that safer sex kits were available.  It was conveniently located near the food and raffle tickets.  We kept it simple, as we were guests but anyone who needed more information knew where to find us.

Between the two events, there was approximately $4500 raised, with over $6,500 raised total to go to the Indiana AIDS Fund Walk & Ride which goes towards emergency assistance for clients.

One of the most important lessons we could have learned in working with these groups over the past week have been that we often have to reach outside of our comfort zone to find the best way to reach our clients.  In reaching out to the Gay Men in Indianapolis, it is not always simple to relate or be related to.  As a team we have all had the opportunity to grow in learning how best to reach the needs of all people.

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day-Team Indy

The Team decided to meet with a local community asset, Delores Horgan to identify the needs of our community and how we are responding to those needs as it relates to our elderly citizens.  Each Team Member took a moment to reflect on the time we spent talking with her, and below are those comments.

Dolores’s perspective on HIV-related issues was especially unique because of her personal connection to the disease combined with her involvement in the prevention community. She was able to describe the history and progress of HIV/AIDS care in Indianapolis as a first hand witness. As we spoke with her more, it was clear that she had an attentive connection with the people that she was reaching out to. I was surprised by the awareness of HIV Dolores described within the senior citizen community as well as the support of others in reaching out to this population. Even with this less explored group of at-risk individuals, the same barriers of misunderstanding and stigma still seemed to exist. In reaching out to the elderly and aging populations about HIV, there is a strong base of awareness to work with, but there is still much to be done.

From the discussion we had with Delores on Friday it stressed to me that HIV still has a stigma tied to it and people don’t realize that it can affect everyone. It is important that HIV/AIDS awareness is not just catered to younger generations but all since there is a rise in the senior population.

I felt that she brought a lot of honesty and humanity to our meeting on Friday.  By painting a picture that wasn’t all roses (and at times it was a bit depressing) she shed some light on some of the huge deterrents in getting people to accept this disease….

Aging and HIV is a topic that is not widely discussed because many think that the old do not engage in sexual activities. Studies show that the elderly over 60 still engage in sexual activities, and if this is true it is important to continue HIV education among this group as well. Proving this, 15 of the new diagnosed cases of HIV are those over the age 50. So, the discussion of HIV and sex education among the elderly should exist and needs to be implemented in the many HIV prevention campaigns.

I think it was important for our team to hear Delores speak about her experiences with HIV and the elderly since, even in the HIV world, it is a rarely discussed topic. People don’t like to think of senior citizens as sexually active, but they are. Senior citizens think that just because pregnancy is not a concern they have no need to use condoms, so they don’t. The combination of these beliefs has lead to rising numbers of STDs in the elderly population, yet there is still a significant lack of prevention and awareness available. It is reassuring to meet someone like Delores who is doing their part to help stop the spread of HIV in a population that is typically overlooked.

In reflecting upon the conversation we had with Delores it makes it that much more obvious to me that we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that HIV is only effecting a certain population.  In fact, the older population is temporary.  One day every other age group will become elderly-including the groups most infected now.  Unfortunately, knowing that there is a need is one thing, but actually being able to reach a community who seems to have no understanding of how it relates to them is the true obstacle here.  We can certainly begin by not marginalizing them in our outreach.

NAF AmeriCorps Kicks off 2010-2011 Program Year

by Robert Sturm

Program Director, New Mexico Community AIDS Partnership
City Supervisor,  NAF AmeriCorps Team New Mexico

Earlier this month, the 54 participants in NAF’s 2010-2011 Americorps/Caring Counts program converged on Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin their year by participating in PreService training.    With the addition of a new team in New Orleans, there will be eight teams in the program this year.   Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Tulsa, Durham, and New Mexico (Santa Fe and Albuquerque), host the other teams.

While in Santa Fe, team members went through extensive training in HIV basics and related issues. They learned about the history of the epidemic and how things have changed over the years.  They were introduced to the structures of NAF’s program and what will be expected of them.  They also had a chance to meet the members they will be working with all year and the members of the other teams, to share their excitement and their motivations for dedicating a year of their lives to service.

Team building at the Santa Fe Mountain Center

The week of training culminated with a day at the Santa Fe Mountain Center, an organization dedicated to serving the community with Experiential Learning programs.  The team members, their city supervisors and several National AIDS Fund staff people explored their fears and boundaries on high ropes events in the morning, learning the power of having a team behind them, and for some, learning that they could participate fully without leaving the ground.

In the afternoon, everyone participated in games and activities, designed to help them explore group dynamics and communication, and learn different strategies for collaborating to overcome obstacles and reach goals.  They also met as individual teams to discuss goals for the year and norms of behavior team members want to use with one another.   All in all, the day allowed members to learn more about themselves and their team mates and to start building the relationships that will support them throughout their year of service.  In addition, the entire day was a demonstration of the experiential learning model that is central to the AmeriCorps experience.  Each activity began with a briefing session in which the event was described and explained and goals and intentions were set.    Then, following each activity, there was a debriefing session in which participants were encouraged to share what they felt and learned through participation in the activity.   This model  will be used by the teams over and over throughout the year in planning and processing Fifth Days and other projects.   What a great way to start out the year and get everyone on track to have fun while serving our communities.