Es Mejor Saber at National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

November 18, 2010 in AmeriCorps

On Friday, October 15, 2010, Team New Mexico participated in “Artists at Work: A Festival of Awareness.”  The awareness campaign was sponsored by Southwest CARE Center, a Santa Fe based clinic dedicated to providing comprehensive medical care, research, education, prevention and support services to people affected by HIV/AIDS.  One of our team members Emily Knittle works at SW Care for her volunteer service.  “Artists at Work” was part of a day of events commemorating National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The event was open to the public and featured the live painting of a mural by two local artists John Santos and Guadalupe Vargas.  The mural was painted on the outside of a café at 2nd street and Lena in Santa Fe and urges everyone that passes that “es mejor saber,” (it’s better to know) and to go get tested for HIV.  The event also featured a local DJ with live hip hop and break dancing.  Team New Mexico participated by helping to spread the word about the event and to draw people in.  We also assisted by helping to set up and clean up afterward.  Southwest CARE also provided free anonymous rapid HIV testing to the public as part of the event.

DJ 13 Pieces and Harambe Movement B Boys

DJ 13 Pieces and the Harambe Movement B Boys

The “Es Mejor Saber” campaign was a great opportunity for us to come together with several groups in the community to spread awareness about HIV.  It was great to work with so many people volunteering their time to spread awareness.  The mural stands as a lasting reminder to the community that it’s better to know your HIV status and to go get yourself tested.

Team Detroit- On a mission to MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

in AmeriCorps

Team Detroit definitely made a difference on Saturday, October 23rd by serving at Cody High School, a local public school. The event was a collaboration between the United Way of Southeastern Michigan and City Year Detroit. Tasks to completed included painting offices and classrooms, landscaping, building benches, and painting murals. Team Detroit was honored to be placed at this school, especially being that it was the hub for a previous City Year member who is currently a member of Team Detroit, Karl Hatcher. Karl gave us a tour of the school and recalled stories of his time spent serving as a Team Leader for City Year.

Though painting murals was our desired assignment, we were assigned the task of revitalizing a room for a full time volunteer who counsels and tutors the students. We spent hours priming and painting, but the time and frustration was all worth it once we saw the finished product. A room that was once red and white was transformed into a spectacular butter yellow and green space conducive for learning.

Although we will not benefit directly from the improvements that were made at Cody High School, the current students and future students that walk the halls of the school will have a better, more visually appealing environment to learn in.

All members of Team Detroit had an awesome time and look forward to working with United Way and City Year again in the near future.

Team NOLA on Make a Difference Day

November 15, 2010 in AmeriCorps

On Make-A-Difference Day, Team NOLA volunteered at the Esperanza Neighborhood Farm in Harvey, LA. Esperanza is a small community garden run by the Latino Farmers’ Collective of Louisiana.

Joining us was an awesome AmeriCorps team from Playworks New Orleans. They serve in six New Orleans schools, teaching kids through games and physical activity. We got to see them in action when they recruited three neighborhood kids to help us out in the garden. We played a few games with the kids, and then we all got back to work.

The small garden had been thoroughly raided by rabbits, so our mission was to set up a fence to protect the broccoli. First we had to take pitchforks and rakes to a field full of weeds to clear a path for the fence. Next, we used a tiller machine and pickaxes to tear up the hard ground. Then we used shovels to dig a shallow trench. Finally, everything was ready, and the fence was hammered into the ground.

All day we battled weeds and spiders, ant hills and tiny lizards, soil full of rocks and seashells. It was exhausting, but by the end of the day we had succeeded in enclosing the entire garden with a fence. So now the broccoli will be kept safe from the rabbits!

“Make a Difference Day” with AmeriCorps Team Tulsa!

November 9, 2010 in AmeriCorps

For Make a Difference Day, Team Tulsa volunteered our time at the annual DIVAS Downtown event. For nine years, DIVAS has been raising funds for HOPE Testing Clinic, one of our placement agencies. For 14 years, HOPE (Health Outreach Prevention Education) has been providing HIV and Hepatitis testing in their clinic and also during outreach in the community. This year, HOPE hosts both Danielle Matheny and Carolyn Acker of Team Tulsa.

Kristin, Janice, Danielle

DIVAS was filled with jaw-dropping performances from local ladies (and one gentleman) throughout the evening. The celebration began with an exclusive patron party on the outdoor patio of the Center for Creativity at Tulsa Community College’s Metro campus. Other attendees arrived shortly thereafter, and the music began. During the night, Team Tulsa oversaw a silent auction for local memorabilia and services. Rebecca Ungerman, performer and emcee for the night, presided over a live auction of trips and other valuable items between each musical number. Also, at each table, guests were invited to purchase testing supplies for HOPE.

Team Tulsa helped with basic services throughout at the night. Kacie, Paige and Kristin watched the front entrance and led people to the patron party, while Danielle registered guests for the patron party upstairs. After the patron party, the team helped with clean-up and then ventured downstairs to watch the silent auction. Danielle and Kristin helped keep guard of the wine for sale while Kacie and Paige began to spot for the live auction. Soon, all four were helping with the energetic live auction. As the festivities came to a close, all the performers came on stage for a medley of hit songs, past and present.


Overall, through admission tickets, auctions and simple donations, DIVAS raised thousands of dollars and countless testing supplies for HOPE Testing Clinic. Team Tulsa continued the tradition of helping DIVAS run smoothly and as planned. Each year continues to be more eventful and see better results than the previous year. We know that next year — DIVAS’ 10th year anniversary — will be even better!

AmeriCorps Team Chicago Participates in Make a Difference Day

in AmeriCorps, Community Partnerships

photo of Team ChicagoOn Saturday, October 23, our team volunteered with our team member Tracy Gallagher’s host agency the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project (CWAP) at their annual Positive and Powerful, We’re Still Standing! conference.  The conference was an all-day event at the University of Illinois at Chicago and included a presentation by keynote speaker Waheedah Shabazz-El, empowerment workshops, movement workshops, a raffle and awards.

A week earlier, on Friday, October 15, we got together as a team at CWAP and prepared boxes of games and toys for the children who would be at the conference with their mothers.  We also organized fliers and made folders for the participants.

When we got to the conference, we each had different roles.  A few of the team members worked at the registration table, getting participants signed in and pointing them in the right direction to rooms that were spread out over three floors.  Others helped set up food, showed participants where their workshops were, and passed out information.  During the movement workshops, which included stepping and salsa, a few members of the team joined in learning the dance moves and mingling with participants.

What struck us most as a team were the various faces and ages that came through the door, giving light to who exactly we were serving: everyone. It wasn’t like magic to see them light up when we said there was breakfast, nor was it unbelievable that they smiled when we smiled, grateful to receive a break from their daily lives. What it was was real life and seeing how offering someone child care, meals, and exciting activities really meant a lot to women who traveled from all over the city to make it. What we recognized as a team is our obligation to servicing communities in need as they are dedicated to come when people provide opportunities for empowerment. Just being there and assisting however we could was a shot of reality: yes we made a difference and yes it was absolutely appreciated.

The event was really fun and, thanks to Tracy’s leadership, everything went smoothly.  We were able to spend time supporting the participants who were living with HIV/AIDS in a way that was outside of our usual professional role.  We were able to meet their children, shake their hands and help them in ways that testing and counseling doesn’t let us. In order to recognize the humanity of the situation, that we are not dealing with clients but with people who have needs, that made a world of difference for us. We are thankful for the chance to see a different color in the spectrum of being in service to our community.

- Annie V. and Phillip W., Team Chicago

AmeriCorps “Make A Difference Day” in North Carolina

November 8, 2010 in AmeriCorps

Team North Carolina took a break from our placement sites and spent October 23rd, 2010, Make A Difference Day, at the Durham Rescue Mission just outside of downtown Durham, North Carolina.  The team arrived bright and early on a chilly, but gorgeous Saturday to do landscaping and gardening for the Rescue Mission that serves those homeless and in need.  After a quick orientation and a lovely brunch (featuring cake, coffee and pizza) we joined several other volunteers for a beautification project outside that took several hours to complete.  It was well worth the work, however, as we took out weeds, overgrown plants and trees and replaced them with gorgeous flowers that will have the strength to survive and prosper throughout the winter.

Half of the garden before Team North Carolina got to give it a make-over.

This experience gave the team a unique opportunity to connect on a deeper level to various other members of our beloved community.  It was an opportunity to see humanity and to work directly for a tangible goal to beautify a community building and strengthen organization that offers a safe haven for so many members of our community that need that hope more than anything.

The Team is hard at work removing some overgrown and very stubborn plants

Being able to sit down and work with other volunteers was also a blessing for Team North Carolina as we received a warm welcome from Durham Rescue Mission representative Delaner Venable and other church volunteers, high school students and North Carolina Central University volunteers.  To see their resolve helped us to rejuvenate our own and really showed the pride that other locals have for their town.  Nurturing the garden together, in turn, really helped to nurture our team’s bond with the community and with each other.  Planting flowers and uprooting weeds and dead plants was the perfect representation for what we are all striving to do in our local communities.  We hope that through our work our communities will be able to shed what is holding them down and replace it with growth, beauty and inspiration.  Ultimately, we are committed to not only making a difference for one day, but to making a difference for years by creating sustainable change and leaving a lasting legacy.

Denechia, Susan, Brittany and Geoff all posing in front of a section of the garden. We were all dirty and tired but most certainly satisfied with a hard day’s work!