Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

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.

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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

Team Indianapolis participates in correctional facility’s inaugural AIDS Walk

Team Indianapolis participated in the first ever New Castle Correctional Facility AIDS Walk on August 27th. The event was organized through Step Up, Inc.’s Tommy Chittenden and the Correctional Facility Chaplain, Joy Pinegar. Each Team Member took a moment to reflect on the time we spent talking with these men, and below are those comments:

“I attended the Prison AIDS Walk at the New Castle Correction Facility with my AmeriCorps Team Indy. We were there to provide support and hand out watermelon and water. When the walk began, the inmates who had volunteered to walk were grateful and appreciative of our presence. As a team, we cheered for them as they completed lap by lap. I remember two inmates whose faces lit up every time we clapped and cheered for them. It brought a sense of humility to know that simple gestures of kindness go a long way and we should never take for granted any support that we have in our individual lives. The day ended well where we were in turn fed hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and punch. I am glad I had the chance to be part of their lives.”

“Handing out watermelon seems like a simple task-one that would take little time and be another piece to a good meal. What I experienced by handing out watermelon was more of a great thankfulness and joy. The men we served were thankful to have fresh fruit before them, and welcomed the fact that we did not have utensils or plates. How beautiful it is to see the simplicity in the watermelon, and to apply that idea to life. I learned that I could be so appreciative of what I had, and that I can see these little things in everyday life.”

“Assisting with the New Castle Correctional Facility’s AIDS Walk was an experience I will not soon forget. Upon entering the facility and beginning work on the walk I quickly realized how different this experience was going to be than I had expected. In order to walk each of the men had given money from their commissary.  Because these men work for all that money or are given it by their family, I found this gesture to be quite the example of charity. After the walk had finished and the men were enjoying some watermelon and water we were able to get to know some of them. One man had been an AmeriCorps member and was very informed about the NGO community of Indianapolis, something I would have never expected. He reminded us to take every memory we can from this experience and to enjoy what this year provides. Other men were speaking about the AIDS quilt that the men in the facility were making, I believe they said there were above 75 squares already made, a number I never would have thought. In the end, I am very happy to have been able to assist in the first of hopefully a new tradition of correctional facility AIDS walks. Meeting and speaking with so many men was an experience I value; it allowed myself and, I believe, my fellow teammates to see a side of these men that is not normally recognized but is important to grow for the better of everyone.”

“I have never had experience working with a prison population, and I have to admit that I was slightly apprehensive about how the men would react to us. However, I was floored at how friendly, polite, and thankful the men acted toward each of us. It surprised me with how quickly many of the men opened up to us. One man in particular sticks out in my mind; he asked several of us for our reasons for joining the AIDS United AmeriCorps program. While we all have our own reasons, none of us mentioned knowing anyone infected or affected by HIV or AIDS prior to joining the organization. He then shared with us that his reason for walking that day was because in the last year, he had an uncle and a cousin both died from AIDS-related complications. This story impacted me so much because it made me realize just how much this preventable disease can ravage an individual life – even if a person is not infected. This man’s story opened my eyes to some of the non-clinical effects of the disease, and I am so grateful that he was kind enough to share his story.”

This experience was an opportunity for team members to reach out and engage a population that is not usually afforded the opportunity to contribute to non-profits and charities. Working with Tommy and Joy, we hope to engage more Indiana prisons and future AmeriCorps teams in many more of these events.

Team Indy’s Living History Project

by Nate Mensah,  AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Indianapolis

On September 17, Team Indianapolis participated in the Living History program at the Richard L. Roudebush Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Indianapolis. This project allowed the team to interview patients and learn about their life stories. The VAMC provides acute and chronic care for veterans as well as serving as a rehabilitation facility. This was a special event that was first proposed as an idea by Jason Grisell (Program Manager of the Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis) as a 9/11 service project. In order to maximize the number of patients interviewed, Team Indy volunteered along with other AmeriCorps Alumni, AmeriCorps VISTA members, and Public Allies.

Our visit was special because many of us bonded with the patients we interviewed. The volunteers decided to pair up and interview in teams.  It would be difficult to say who enjoyed chatting more: the volunteers or the patients. Our conversations ranged from the standard topics of interests in music, movies, and foods, to some very unexpected yet entertaining topics. A couple of our team members had a full lecture on the harmful aspects of aspartame and the benefits of eating raw vegetables! Others encountered some powerful emotions when the veterans reminisced about family members and friends.

The goal of this project was to learn more about the patients, and to determine if there are ways the hospital can improve the level of care the patient is receiving by meeting an unmet need that they aren’t aware of. It was fascinating to have conversations with these individuals, and here how their time serving our country changed their lives. All of the volunteers enjoyed learning about the patients, and by the day’s end, numerous patients were very pleased to have the chance to talk with new people as well (even on a Saturday morning!). In fact, they were hopeful and eager for us to return to do the event again. It meant a lot to us that the patients seemed to truly enjoy talking with us.

As a thank you for allowing them to be interviewed, we provided a care package consisting of a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, a journal, a pen, and an activity booklet with crossword puzzles. Even though we were only there for a few hours, we know of the long-lasting impact we have made on the veterans, and fully enjoyed doing so!