Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

Team Chicago Checks In!

By Wandalyn Savala

It’s been a busy quarter for Team Chicago. After AIDS United training in Ann Arbor, we quickly got to work in the Chi. Our team of nine serves with eight agencies in the city: Broadway Youth Center, Test Positive Aware Network, Chicago House, Southside Help Center, Howard Brown, Heartland Alliance, The Night Ministry, and Project Vida. Our work connects us with youth, homeless individuals, persons who identify as LGBTQI, people struggling to make ends meet, and people new to the world of service providers and case managers. Every day we see how HIV is truly a city-wide issue.

Our primary task is to provide HIV testing to those who visit our agencies, but often we become a part of our clients’ emotional and social support networks. With the life changes that can come with being “at-risk” for contracting HIV or living with HIV, how could we not? It was no surprise, then, when one of our teammates began crocheting hats for homeless individuals they work with in anticipation of the winter months.

Of course, emotional and social support goes beyond meeting the needs of the people we serve. Support also means celebrating successes. In September and October, we did just that by volunteering at the Chicago Half Marathon and the AIDS Walk. Both events raised money for HIV service organizations so that they – and we – can continue the work we do in all parts of the city. As we cheered on the Team2End AIDS, we marveled at how one good, “GOOOOO TEAM!” helped runners make it through the finish line.

It’s November now. We’re in the thick of our service year, but far from the end. (A fact that we’re constantly reminded of as the temperatures drop, and our first Chicago winter looms near.) Whenever we can, we’re at trainings, conferences, and meetings to enhance our knowledge about the epidemic. We know that HIV, what we know about it, and how we can fight it is constantly evolving. Accordingly, we prep ourselves as much as possible. As 2011 winds down, look forward to more blog postings about what we’ve been up to since August, and what we look forward to doing from now until June.

Wandalyn Savala is a member of AIDS United Team Chicago. Follow Team Chicago on Twitter @AIDS_U_CHITOWN and ‘like’ us on Facebook.

Making a Difference in DC

Finding affordable housing in Washington, DC can be an uphill battle. As gentrification drives housing prices up in different neighborhoods around the District, some residents e are pushed out to Maryland or Virginia, and/or find themselves with insecure housing situations. The Transitional Housing Coalition (THC) is one organization that works to maintain affordable housing options for families and individuals, and the organization also helps prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

For Make a Difference Day, Team DC met up with the wonderful people at one of the transitional housing sites of THC. Families stay at sites like this one before making the move to a more permanent living situation, such as one of the long-term affordable rental housing sites of THC. The organization also has programs for permanent supportive housing, and for rapid rehousing and homeless prevention for displaced families or families that are in danger of losing their homes.

After learning a little bit about the organization and about housing issues in DC, we donned gloves and masks and got to work sanding and taping a few of the walls of the apartment complex. The walls had recently been re-done, and we were prepping them for painting, which we were able to do after lunch. With the power of twelve team members, and the help and guidance of the maintenance staff, we managed to finish painting all of the walls that we prepped. The staff was very happy to have the extra help, and we felt proud to have contributed to the beautification of the building.

One of the highlights of the day was when we met up with a three-year-old resident who wandered into the room that we were in and started hopping around and “ribbiting” like a frog. He hung out with us for a little bit before his mom came for him, and he even came back to say goodbye to us later.

THC not only provides affordable housing for individuals and families, it also has a number of enrichment programs for the people that it serves, and most of these programs are staffed by volunteers. If you live in the DC area and want to help out with a ‘Time for Tots’ program, for example, check out the Transitional Housing Corporation and you might be able to meet our frog friend!

Team Carolina | Make A Difference Day

On Make A Difference Day, Team Carolina had the opportunity to collaborate with Partners in Caring (PIC), a grant-funded component of the Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) Pastoral Services Department and the DUMC Division of Infectious Diseases. Along with its main focus to provide spiritual assistance to individuals living with HIV/AIDS, PIC also is greatly involved in prevention education and testing in outreach and community settings. As our AmeriCorps team, and many other teams have surely come to know, the infectious disease known as HIV is not one that only affects the biological aspect of an individual’s life. It has breached to other facets such as social, political, and mental. It is wonderful that programs like PIC exist to help individuals cope with their condition, and help these individuals establish reassuring relationships with local churches and support groups.

The event that took place was a local health fair in Durham, NC at the Holton Resource and Training Center. Various groups came together to raise awareness about many medically-related conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and HIV. There were two simple but effective components to our service project: education and testing. Firstly, our team provided hourly educational sessions in which individuals learned the mechanics of the disease, ways of transmission, means of prevention,  and activities to generate awareness. This was extremely important, because many of these individuals would not have received HIV education otherwise. Secondly, HIV rapid testing was available free of charge. It was noticeable that although many were eager to learn about disease, many were afraid of the testing portion of the workshop. The large stigma associated with getting tested was evident, and the individuals who were tested were supported greatly during the process.

All in all, this service day was a great experience. It gave us the opportunity to put all the things we have learned through countless hours of training into real-life practice. The experience we had teaching, testing, and counseling first-hand cannot be substituted any other way, and will help shape our team into better ambassadors of the AIDS United message. We hoped we made a difference in all those we reached out to.

Make A Difference Day In Detroit

For Make A Difference Day 2011 Team Detroit joined millions of people nationwide in an effort to give back to our communities. In southeast Michigan, a collaboration of United Way for Southeastern Michigan, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Madonna University, Oakland Community College, Marygrove College and Wayne State University allowed Detroit area residents, students and AmeriCorps groups to come together on this important day. At the event, agencies from across the region provided activities that directly benefited our community. Arts and Scraps Detroit saw volunteers prep countless art kits that Detroit area school children will now be able to use. College Positive witnessed the power of volunteerism by training residents to tutor K-12 youth as they prepare for college; Beyond Basics gave residents a chance to work on projects like book binding and making bookmarks as well as provided training for those who looked to help elementary school children develop fundamental education skills.

Team Detroit took part in assisting with the beautification at the Southwest Solutions Early Learning Community. This awesome organization provides parents, caregivers and their children the opportunity to prepare to enter school ready to learn. Too often Detroit area schools see children enter into the education system not truly ready.  Southwest Solutions Early Learning Community steps in and looks to benefit from the fact that 90% of brain development occurs before a child reaches the age of three. Southwest Solutions Early Learning Community’s programs provide trainings in childhood development,  health and safety classes, mentoring services,  and networking events.  The organization also offers clean playgrounds for families to play, learn and grow. In addition to all of this, assistance programs are set in place to help those parents and caregivers who may have issues with reading, writing and math themselves. While children are sent to school to learn, education first starts in the home, parents and caregivers that need help can now find it free of charge.

Beautification efforts taking place at one of the five Southwest Solutions Early Learning Community sites in the area focused on the environment that surrounds those using the facility. Members from the team helped cleaned up the surrounding yard and playground area, revamped the kitchen area with a thorough cleaning and refinishing of cabinets/cupboards and assisted with the general cleaning of the learning areas inside. A healthy learning environment providing a stable and secure learning experience is what our youth truly need and community-based programs such as the one found at Southwest Solutions Early Learning Community serve as a community hub for moving forward. Keeping the grounds clean, allowing the volunteers and employees to focus on their work and providing a safe place for Detroit youth and families was an awesome feeling. The Detroit area may be notorious for its state of education at the moment but efforts such as this show that progress is being made, people are moving forward and citizens look to provide for the children that will one day inherit the city left to them.

Although Team Detroit looks to make a difference every day, this Make A Difference Day was a remarkable experience that we are all happy to have been a part of.

This Is What We Can Do – Team Detroit’s Fast Start

The service year in Detroit started with the gathering of all eight AIDS United AmeriCorps teams in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This awesome meeting set the tone for what looks to be an exciting year. It was at this pre-service meeting that teams began to truly form and create bonds. The team building that took place also allowed individuals to grow, with each person having to push him or herself at one point or another (whether it was during the ice-breakers, the condom demonstrations or at Crossroads Adventure Center). Team Detroit left the meeting excited and jumped right into our service year.

9/11 Day of Service

Our first Team 5th Day came in response to President Obama’s call for a day of service in remembrance of 9/11. We took part in one of the largest 9/11 service day events in the nation. The event,  coordinated by Focus: Hope; ACCESS; City Year Detroit (AmeriCorps); and other local non-profits, brought Michigan residents together, creating an impressive scene of unity and diversity. With the goal of honoring those lost while moving forward under a united front, we took part in projects such as neighborhood beautification, school preparation and letter writing to American soldiers.

Detroit AIDS Walk – Steppin’ Out

Listening to the advice of AmeriCorps alumi, Team Detroit looked to start early in raising funds for our Long Term Project (LTP).  Detroit AIDS Walk gave us the opportunity to do so, while at the same time helping out the AIDS Walk as well. We took to the streets in an effort to spread the word about the walk, posting ads at various local businesses and talking to residents we passed along the way. The walk also gave us a great platform to raise funds for our team. We created a walk team and raised just under $1000. In addition to this success, on the day of the walk we had the honor of taking part in the unveiling of a panel from the Names Project  AIDS Quilt. This was the second time we were able to pay our respects to those lost to the epidemic and we are thankful for that.

Latino Family Services

With National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day approaching, the team decided to volunteer at Latino Family Services (LFS) (which also serves as a host agency) in the city of Detroit. We assisted LFS in preparing for an upcoming HIV testing event; setting up the testing area, preparing facilities and arranging outreach materials. The event not only offers testing, but also brings awareness to the Latino community, which makes up 4% of the HIV/AIDS cases, but only 3% of the Michigan population.

The year has just started and the experiences we have already encountered will have lasting impact. We look forward to continuing the year and getting things done in Detroit.

Check us out on Facebook for additional pictures, news and updates. https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit

Indy AIDS Walk 2011

“Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?” ~Erich Fromm

Education is the backboard of awareness.  Awareness is the levy that lifts prejudices away from the minds of individuals.  That awareness and education was ever present at Indianapolis’s AIDS walk 2011.  The sun was out, the tents were raised and the masses marched on in order to show their support and dedication to battling this entity we call AIDS.  That Saturday morning brought people from many different places in life; but all to come together and show their support for fighting HIV/AIDS.  It was an amazing feeling to be able to look out and see quilts recognizing those who had lost the battle to HIV, but also to see men and women fighting the battle at that very moment–while showing an inter-strength that blazed across the park.  The one idea that constantly came to mind during the walk was that HIV doesn’t discriminate.  It doesn’t target just one population or age group;  it is an equal opportunity virus.

The beautiful thing that comes out of all the destruction that HIV can lead to is the simple fact that you are never alone.  You don’t have to go to a certain part of the world to find others that are struggling with the same thing; you can walk down your street.  This walk wasn’t just about the money that was being raised, or the gathering of many businesses–it was the gathering of a community.  That community is the support system of many individuals in the great city of Indianapolis.  For Team Indy, we are blessed to see little working parts of this incredible system during our four days of the week; but what a true honor it was to be in place where all of those little parts came together to form that community.

–Brittany Sichting