Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots: An Introduction

AmeriCorps week is upon us and this year the goals set by the Corporation for National and Community Service aim to bring AmeriCorps members and alums together. The two main goals for 2012 AmeriCorps Week:

  • To help make AmeriCorps members and alums feel part of something larger than themselves and their projects; and to connect AmeriCorps members and alums with each other and a nationwide effort.
  • To communicate the powerful impact AmeriCorps has on critical national and community challenges and on the lives of members and alums.

The theme for this year is AmeriCorps Works. This theme, “Communicates the value and effectiveness of AmeriCorps while providing flexibility to be used in many different contexts. It provides an overarching framework to communicate AmeriCorps triple bottom line return on investment — for the recipients of service, the people who serve, and the larger community and nation.

Team Detroit members witness firsthand the return on investments in our community, not only in how it impacts the city in a positive way but in the way it can impact the members who serve. Each year members enter a field that is in no way easily understood, easygoing or stable. These members go through the required trainings, are introduced first-hand to the stigma saturating the fight against the disease, head out to the community and then try to make their mark by educating peers, neighbors, youth, family members, seniors and the community leaders who often themselves let this issue fall through the cracks. After all is said and done, members look back at their service year, rightfully appreciate the experience and impact they had on their community and then look to the future.

In Detroit members seem to fall in love with this field despite the battle that lay ahead. I have on more than one occasion run into numerous Team Detroit alums at community events. The conversation typically starts:

Alum (noticing AmeriCorps gear): “Oh! You are in AmeriCorps?”

My response: “Yeah, I am part of Team Detroit this year.”

Alum: “I was too!”

The conversation continues with reflections of the alum’s service year, what the long term project for year is and how the placements for the year are going. Former Team Detroit members seem to be embedded in HIV/AIDS community and it is an awesome feeling to know that you could run into an alum at just about any event you attend. I am also lucky enough, like many other members on the team, to serve at an agency that hired an alum after the alum’s service year ended. Being able to work next to a former team member is a great experience and the benefits are obvious (advice on how to handle the service year, ideas for team days, avoiding burnout, etc.).

Team Detroit now looks to highlight some of these former team members. The next few days the AIDS United blog will feature our interviews with the former members, most of who stayed in the field after their year of service. We hope you enjoy seeing the impact this program has on members and how over the years a small team in Detroit has filled the ranks of the HIV/AIDS community, joined the social work field and/or found their place in education. This was a great project that connected our current members with alums and we hope to use these efforts to build up that relationship.

Keep in mind that Team Detroit formed in 1997 and is now on team 15. One hundred forty nine people have served on our 15 teams, performing more than 200,000 hours of community service. Valued at $20 per hour, the in-kind contribution is nearly$4 million. Service areas include HIV counseling and testing, case management, HIV education/prevention/risk reduction, support group facilitation, and other client focused services. This program is the only structured internship for training, hands on experience, and placement in our state, creating the next generation of workers in the HIV/AIDS field. At least 25 former team members now work at agencies in Michigan.

These interviews are with a small group of alums but we hope to connect with additional members in the future. Also, we are not trying to take away from those who did not stay in the field or find employment related to their experience. Many go on to further their education or find another program for a second year of service. Regardless of what their next venture was, we appreciate their role in creating the structure and culture that now defines Team Detroit.

Want to see what the current team is up to? Check out our Facebook page!

Team NOLA on MLK Day

On MLK Day, Team NOLA joined more than 200 volunteers at the Success Preparatory Academy (SPA) for a day of service organized by City Year New Orleans.

SPA is one of many charter schools in New Orleans that seeks to close the “achievement gap” present in the city’s schools. Promoting the core values of Achievement, Enthusiasm, Respect, Service, Teamwork, and Ubuntu, SPA serves some of the most at-risk students in the country– 96% of whom receive free or reduced lunch.

Our mission for the day was to beautify the school. To that end, Team NOLA helped paint two murals. One mural depicted the core values over the New Orleans skyline. The other was of a quote by Dr. King from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  Dr. King wrote this letter in response to a few moderate white clergymen who denounced him as an outsider stirring up racial tension in their city of Birmingham. Dr. King argued that the tension he was causing was necessary in order for society to make true progress in civil rights. And, though he was based in Atlanta, Dr. King felt morally obligated to take part in the civil rights battles being fought in Birmingham.

It is in this context that he wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

This quote echos the school’s core value of Ubuntu, a southern African philosophy which stresses the interconnectedness of all human beings.

After we finished painting, we were treated to a buffet featuring everything from jambalaya to injera.

Team Detroit Honors MLK Day

In the spirit of community service, compassion, and commitment to what Dr. King famously called “beloved community,” AmeriCorps AIDS United Team Detroit joined AmeriCorps members across the nation in making this year’s Martin Luther King holiday a day on – not a day off.  In contrast with past years, when activists boldly took to the streets, our team chose a less public display of solidarity and commitment to social justice. From behind dimly-lit warehouse walls, this year’s Team Detroit decided we would take to the shelves.

While friends and family slept in late, I’m proud to say that Team Detroit arrived bright and early, at a kick-off rally hosted by City Year Corps members, serving nearby. Once the formalities of introduction, historical acknowledgement, and preparation were complete, the team converged on an unlikely building, just a few miles north of the downtown core. Outside the small office space, we waited for the clank of a chain-link gate’s opening, then followed dozens of other volunteers through a discreet side door, and into the warehouse stowed behind.

Clambering away from the icy January wind, we piled into a cramped aisle, tucked between two columns of metal shelves, on top of which lay countless stacks upon stacks of books. Greeted by an older man who beamed from ear to ear, Team Detroit was introduced to the work of the Kiwanis Book Club. Kiwanis, we learned, was an organization committed to promoting literacy in Detroit youth. As we further surveyed our surroundings, Team Detroit members realized that the two towering bookshelves were just the beginning of what was actually a mountainous literary collection. There were books piled everywhere, so that it was nearly impossible for the scores of volunteers to avoid brushing shoulders—or, occasionally, stepping on toes. All these books—donations collected from near and far—were to be sorted, packed, and sent off to teachers who could then send them home with a student unable to afford to purchase literature.

As we got to work, it was hard to avoid grinning. Smiling to myself, I thought, if I had to pick just one, I’d say MLK day was my favorite team day, so far. That’s because, of all the national holidays, Martin Luther King Day has always been my favorite. Its spirit is beautifully in sync with the core value of the AmeriCorps program – to serve, and participate actively in community. This past MLK day, we didn’t sleep in late, spend money, or dress up in our nicest clothes; but we did give a gift. And, after some reflection, I think it’s safe to say we were given a gift, ourselves, too.

Team New Mexico | Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Team New MexioAn individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day which many people take to recognize racial and other social inequalities that still exist in our nation, Team New Mexico promoted diversity and equality in a parade in Albuquerque. We teamed up with N’MPower, an organization for young gay and bisexual men aimed at raising HIV/AIDS awareness and education through positive social connections and peer support. We met early in the morning and decorated our banner, then joined the parade route around 1 p.m.

Surrounded by the cacophony of beating drums and buzzing vuvuzelas, we marched proudly with our banner amongst others who held signs bearing paintings and quotes of Martin Luther King Jr. The parade itself was rather informal, but the passion behind those marching in it was clear and abundant. We marched a few miles from the University of New Mexico’s campus to the courthouse downtown, where several others rallied together and a number of key speakers recited some of Dr. King’s speeches, stressed the importance of the holiday, and provided various forms of traditional New Mexico entertainment.

Through our presence in the parade, we worked to educate the community on the importance of the intersection between the rights and lifestyles of black and LGBTQ communities and how they’re affected by HIV/AIDS. We handed out flyers for an upcoming event we’re participating in at N’MPower for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7th. We will be administering free HIV testing at a health fair, followed by a candlelight vigil and some fun entertainment. We hope our outreach done during the parade will reflect a good turnout for this upcoming event!

The King In Our Midst: Team D.C. @ The National Cathedral

Team DC MLK Day 1It was quite fitting that Team D.C. did its MLK Day of Service at the Washington National Cathedral.  Ironically, a few days before the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., he spoke at the Cathedral’s pulpit on March 31, 1968, which happened to be his final sermon.  The title of his sermon was titled, “Remaining awake through a great revolution.”  To us, this speaks volumes. Right now, the AIDS epidemic is going through many changes and breakthroughs as it works to establish an AIDS-free generation.  It is very important that we continue to fight the fight and “remain awake” throughout what is taking place!  Like Martin Luther King, Jr. it is important to stand boldly and confidently in the things that you believe in if you want change to take place!

Team D.C. members started off their day of service at Soka Gakkai Buddhist Cultural Center, collecting clothing that were dropped off for a clothing drive.  There, we sorted and bagged the clothing that was dropped off by members of the community.

Team DC MLK Day 2Later on in the day, the rest of the members walked over to the National Cathedral where we talked to high school scholars about the importance of doing community service, especially when applying to college.  Each of us went around and talked about the AmeriCorps and what we did at each of our agencies.  It was exciting to talk with these young people because just a few years ago, we were in their shoes.  It is always good to share insight with youth who want to make a difference in their communities!  From there, we joined forces with the high school scholars and split up into groups.  Some of our team helped with the food drive, some ushered for the ceremony that was taking place in honor of Dr. King, and some helped sort out donated books that would be going to different organizations around D.C. that lacked resources!

The ceremony started off with a processional where I.J., Nia and Ryan were chosen to carry the donated food, clothes, and books to the altar.  Following that, lots of great performances ensued.  Dancers and drummers, gospel choirs, and spoken word artists from all over D.C. performed to give tribute to the legacy of Dr. King.  Through music and dance, each performer brought in a different aspect of the city’s rich heritage.

No matter if you were raking leaves, serving food, or reconstructing homes throughout your city, each service project reflects Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s love for service which promotes and uplifts unity and peace in our communities.  Now we must ask ourselves, what can we do and what must be done to promote HIV/AIDS awareness while still uplifting and uniting the communities that are being overlooked and ignored by society?

World AIDS Day in New Mexico

On this day of worldwide recognition for those living with and those who have already passed from HIV/AIDS, not to mention increasing numbers of HIV infection rates  amongst younger people, Team New Mexico was able to collaborate with the New Mexico Department of Health and the University of New Mexico LGBTQ Resource Center in Albuquerque to provide HIV testing for all students. We split up to administer tests at three locations set up throughout the campus giving students multiple opportunities to get tested during the day - The Student Union Building, El Centro de la Raza (Student Affairs), and the LGBTQ Resource Center. The turnout was great being that the temperature was in the 20s, and wind gusts reached up to 44mph.

Two weeks later, the NMDOH returned for a ”Results Day.”  Out of the 33 tests administered on World AIDS Day, 20 results were given. The response to the event could not have been better.