Team NOLA on MLK Day

January 26, 2011 in Access2Care

In honor of MLK Day, Team NOLA participated in a fire safety event organized by the Southeast Louisiana chapter of the American Red Cross.

Early Saturday morning, we arrived at the Pilgrim Progress Missionary Baptist Church. There were about 50 volunteers all together, mostly from the Red Cross Clubs of local universities.

We all had some breakfast, and then a local fire chief presented a brief introduction to fire safety. He also gave us a phone number that people can call to receive a free smoke detector.

The neighborhood was divided into sectors and each group of volunteers was assigned to canvass a certain sector. A Red Cross member led each group.

We went from house to house, placing door hangers with fire safety information on door knobs and talking to people in the neighborhood. The day was beautiful, and the residents were very friendly. We hope that people will read the door hangers we left, and that the information will save lives.

Together, volunteers canvassed 1,940 houses that day.

President Seeks Unity With State of the Union Address

in Policy/Advocacy

by William McColl, Director, Political Affairs

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama sought to refocus the terms of the national debate away from last year’s health care reform bill onto the need for jobs.  For the first time at the State of the Union in recent memory, Republicans and Democrats sat together and wore  black and white ribbons to honor the victims of tragic shooting in Tucson, AZ and the ongoing fight for survival of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

Domestic spending freeze: no cuts “on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens”

The President spoke of seeking common ground with the newly-empowered Republicans in Congress, focusing on deficit reduction and offering a five year freeze on “annual domestic spending.”  Such a freeze seems designed to exclude possible increases in spending through entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.  However he emphasized that the new health care reform bill would actually slow spending increases in those programs.  The President also sought to carve out space for his priorities noting that deficit reduction could not only come from the 12% of the federal budget devoted to social and health care spending.  Encouragingly he urged Congress not to make cuts “on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Health care reform: “let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward”

On health care, the President once again sought common ground with Republicans by agreeing to change at least one provision to eliminate bookkeeping burdens on small businesses and offered to review other possible changes.  However he also defended the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) stating that, “this law is making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured students a chance to stay on their parents’ coverage.”  Finally he challenged Congress, saying “instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward.”

Republican response

In the Republican response, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) reiterated the Republican message points, promising that the new House majority would find ways to cut spending.  He also claimed that the health care reform bill was “accelerating the country towards bankruptcy and would cause millions of Americans to lose health care coverage due to increased health care premiums.  This conflicts directly with Congressional Budget Office estimates that over ten years the health care reform law would slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending by about $230 billion.  Nevertheless he said that Republicans would continue efforts to repeal the bill and replace it with fiscally responsible reforms.  He did not offer examples of what those reforms would be.  The House last week passed a resolution calling for four committees to develop replacement solutions.

AIDS United is advocating for continued implementation of health care reform;
Opposes repeal of Affordable Care Act

AIDS United opposes repeal of the Affordable Care Act and is concerned that efforts to do so will ultimately result in moving back towards funding HIV/AIDS treatment and care through vulnerable discretionary funding.  This funding is already stretched thin, most visibly resulting in more than 5000 people being placed on waiting lists for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.  AIDS United continues to hear concerns from people in the field that it is harder for people living with HIV to get necessary doctor visits, dental and vision care or access to support services that help people living with HIV to gain access to good treatment.  Additionally cuts in services threaten not only the ability of people who currently need to access care, but also fail to acknowledge every two years more than 100,000 people are infected with this terrible disease,   who also will require services too.  Failure to deal with this reality, both by preventing disease and failing to treat people living with HIV will take us back to the days in which our public health system verged on collapse.  We cannot and we will not let that happen.

Spirit of Service- Team Carolina MLK Day

January 25, 2011 in AmeriCorps

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. –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Team Carolina looked forward to beginning the Day of Service early by serving at the Durham Center for Senior Life. Partnered with the United Way, our team, along with about 75 other volunteers gathered together to “Make it a day on, not a day off.” It was a change of scenery to be outside of our offices and in the heart of the community. The Durham Center for Senior Life is an Adult Day Program that helps individuals age 55+ to lead healthy, active and independent lives. Activities range from Bingo to exercise, computer and cooking classes. The gorgeous and spacious facility was the perfect place for seniors to be in a relaxed environment with their peers.

As a group, all of the volunteers, most of whom did not know each other and with little instruction began working together. Our task was simple: to paint the walls of several activity rooms and bathrooms that had become dull beige over the years. We began taping the base boards, light switches and covering anything we didn’t want damaged. All types of paint brushes began stroking the walls until the place was a light mint green. When supplies were low, volunteers chipped in and brought their own from home. While some stooped low to paint base boards, others reached high on ladders in order to reach the ceiling. It was truly wonderful to see the end result of what taking time to serving others can do. That day we all embodied the spirit of Dr. King

It was amazing to see so many people come out to serve. It was even more beautiful to see how many parents brought their children, ensuring that Dr. King’s spirit of service is passed on to the next generation. It meant a lot to Team Carolina to have been apart of this group and it is our hope that the through our acts of service, the seniors who use this space daily will continue to enjoy health, wellness and personal fulfillment.

Chicago’s “Day On”: MLK Day 2011

January 21, 2011 in AmeriCorps

“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

January 12, 2011 in AmeriCorps

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 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

January 5, 2011 in AmeriCorps

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.