“Last Call for Truth” on World AIDS Day in New Mexico

December 21, 2010 in AmeriCorps

Team New Mexico at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe

In honor of World AIDS Day, Robert Sturm, Project Director of the New Mexico Community AIDS Partnership, with a collaborative of seven other agencies, sponsored two performances of “Last Call for Truth,” written and performed by the Push Pens. Team New Mexico volunteered at the performances, which also included a reception in remembrance of World AIDS Day. The performances were held at Warehouse 21 on December 3rd in Santa Fe, and also at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on December 4th in Albuquerque.

On Friday December 3rd, Team New Mexico volunteered at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe. Warehouse 21 is a community center for youth which hosts visual and performance arts events, and also offers different programs for youth such as music production and lessons, painting and graffiti, and computer graphics and animation. Team New Mexico assisted with set up for both the reception and performance, and helped out as needed throughout the evening. Several agencies cosponsored and assisted with the planning for the events including Southwest CARE Center, a Santa Fe based HIV/AIDS clinic, and the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Network, both organizations with Team New Mexico AmeriCorps volunteers.

“Last Call for Truth” is a hip hop opera written and performed by Dino Foxx and Manuel “Cros” Esquivel. Through a unique approach combining original hip hop, spoken word poetry, and theater, “Last Call“ relates the upbringing, struggles and friendship of two men, one gay and one straight, from the west side of San Antonio and the challenges they faced throughout their lives. Saturday’s performance featured a question-and-answer session with the performers and sparked discussion in the community surrounding many issues including sexuality, gender roles, religion, and drugs and alcohol among others. The event and the performance also helped to increase HIV awareness among the Hispanic LGBT community, a population that in New Mexico is more at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Team NOLA on World AIDS Day

in AmeriCorps

Team NOLA spent World AIDS Day at the Stevenson’s Academy of Hair Design. We were there to support our sponsor, the Louisiana Office of Public Health, as they kicked off an initiative that teaches hair stylists how to talk to their clients about HIV.

The NO/AIDS Task Force provided free, rapid HIV testing in their mobile testing unit while N’R Peace provided free syphilis testing for the students.

Meanwhile, there was a health fair on the second floor of the school. Several agencies had tables at the fair, including the Southeast Louisiana American Red Cross, the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the HIV/AIDS Program Clinic.

Team NOLA helped out at the tables for the NO/AIDS Task Force, N’R Peace, family planning, and Americorps. We talked to many students and had a great time passing out condoms, providing free health information, and recruiting for next year’s National AIDS Fund Americorps team.

We are greater than AIDS!

World AIDS Day for Team Tulsa

December 14, 2010 in AmeriCorps

World AIDS Day for Team Tulsa began as a low-key testing event a local university in the afternoon and grew into a community gathering at night.

Testing

For the past couple of years, Team Tulsa has had the opportunity to use the Student Health Center at the University of Tulsa as a temporary testing site on World AIDS Day. This year was no different. We had a slow start, but Paige and Kacie spread the word at the campus’s activity center, and soon the clients came pouring in. We were only supposed to be there until 1:00pm, but the amount of clients waiting for testing required we stay longer. Kristin, Danielle and Carolyn ended up testing about 20 TU students in less than four hours. We also gave away condoms, male and female, and literature on HIV. In the waiting area, clients were greeted with a penis model and plastic model of the female reproductive organs, demonstrating the proper insertion of a female condom. Overall, the first part of our day went pretty well. It was a great start to World AIDS Day 2010.

After resting for a bit, the team members rejoined each other at Langston University in North Tulsa. There, Tulsa CARES, a major organization specializing in the well-being of those living with HIV/AIDS, set up a feast for the World AIDS Day commemoration event “Light for Rights.” Team Tulsa set up the candles for the lighting event later in the night. People from the community gathered and mingled while a local singer/songwriter entertained until about 6:30, when the event began. A few speakers, including our very own city supervisor, Janice Nicklas, addressed the state of HIV in the world, nation and Oklahoma. Rebecca Ungerman, a delightful and boisterous local performer (who was also at our Make a Difference Day event, DIVAS), addressed the conspicuous absence of any Tulsa and Oklahoma lawmakers at the end, which received a rousing round of applause.

A church choir sang after the speakers finished, followed by a heart wrenching story of a local Native American woman who was infected with HIV 18 years ago. The team then found our stations by the doors, and led the crowd outside, giving them candles along the way. The crowd stood in darkness while Pastor Bob Lawrence of the Community of Hope church gave a solemn speech, remembering those we have lost due to HIV and AIDS. Then, one by one, the crowd lit their candles and stood in silence in the cold.
The event was overwhelming, and required personal reflection from every participant involved. The sense of togetherness and community permeated the night, and brought Team Tulsa even closer together.

A Grand Difference!

December 9, 2010 in AmeriCorps

Team Indy’s Make a Difference Day was nothing less than Grand! We were honored to be able to volunteer and attend the Damien Center’s annual Grande Masquerade, one of two major fundraisers the Damien Center holds each year, where all proceeds are given back to clients. The Damien Center is a local agency that offers vital supportive services to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS so they may live abundant and productive lives.

The morning of the event, our team was beginning to feel as if we were affected by this year’s title “The Sorcerer’s Spell” from all the work that mysteriously kept appearing. From assembling the lights to cutting colored film to be placed over lights was both exciting yet strenuous. The work only heightened when we were introduced to the dining area where we placed hundreds of chairs in their proper place while at the same time showing off our cleverly effective bow tying on the backs of those chairs.

Walking into the luxury hotel that night didn’t seem to be the same room we helped in decorating earlier! The decorations were something of a fantasy and the elaborate costumes were amazing. The night started off with a silent auction followed by dinner, entertainment, and midnight dancing. To see clients, board members, and sponsors having such a good time meant a lot to team Indianapolis. We knew our work did not go unnoticed and that it for sure made a difference. Our work benefited clients apart of the Damien Center as well as impacted the community by bringing people from all walks of life together! The Grande Masquerade was an eventful night and Team Indy was so thankful to the Circle City Coalition for allowing us the opportunity to experience it. We hope to make The Grande Masquerade a yearly tradition and look forward to continuing to make a difference everyday!

Living Positive By Design!

December 7, 2010 in AmeriCorps

October 22, 2010 marked a day of  eagerness and anticipation for team Indianapolis as we took part in a meet and greet with Jack Mackenroth! Jack Mackenroth was a contestant on season 4 of the popular show “Project Runway”  hosted by Heidi Klum. During his brief appearance on the show he came out with being infected with HIV. This led to his campaign “Living Positive By Design”, an organization created to break stigmas about HIV/AIDS and for people living with the disease to think positive while keeping their health in check.

Team Indianapolis with Project Runway designer Jack Mackenroth

Team Indianapolis was honored to be invited to hear Mackenroth speak about his time on the show and his story behind the disease that he’s been living with for almost 20 years . Jack definitely doesn’t let this disease run him and motivates others to do the same.  His words not only enlightened our team but inspired us to want to do more with breaking down stereotypes tied to HIV/AIDS.

With such a personable setting, guests were elated to ask questions relating to HIV infected/affected clients, health issues, and of course autographs! The team bonded with other health agencies across the city and took away beneficial information we can all use in our placements. Team Indy  hopes to lead by example in our work as does Jack and wouldn’t mind meeting and greeting celebrities a long the way!

Team Indy explores the NAMES Quilt

in AmeriCorps

On November 12th, Team Indianapolis traveled to Bloomington, IN to read names and help monitor the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.  This project allowed the team to explore and appreciate the quilt, a tribute to those affected by HIV/AIDS and the largest known piece of community folk art as of 2010.

The quilt was started in 1987 as a memorial to and celebration of the lives of early victims of the virus.  The pieces of the quilt are composed of 6’ x 3’ pieces of material decorated with anything from paint and embroidery to baby shoes and CD’s.  Currently, the quilt consists of 46,000 individual memorial panels and weighs about 54 tons.  The last time all of the pieces were displayed together was on the National Mall in 1996.  Today small collections of the quilt travel the country and are displayed at various locations.

Our visit was special because this was the largest collection of quilt pieces ever displayed in Indiana.  When we entered the hall at Indiana University housing these quilt pieces, they coated the walls and floor and hung from the ceiling.  While our teammates Ashely and Naomi read names of those honored by the quilt, we had the chance to admire some of these works of art.

Some of the pieces looked professionally done.  A piece for Freddie Mercury was made with crushed black velvet and extravagant silver detailing.  Others had a more homemade feel to them and often included personal messages from friends and family.  Regardless of  the content, the sheer size and emotion put into the display was enough to remind us all of what we are continually working for in our year of service.

The visitors at the IU display were clearly moved and fascinated by the quilt.   This kind of reception ensures that the quilt will remain a moving message for years and generations of viewers to come.