Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holidays


Merry Holidays everybody, from Team Indianapolis!

Amanda, Chloe, Ebony, Katie, Kyle, and Oliver


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

midwest swing.

Dearest comrades,
Let me tell you about Team Chicago's November. A time filled with first snows and Guy Fawkes' masks. With Bears' and Bulls' losses. Oh, and Blackhawk wins. They play hockey. Or something.

Our first Fifth day was on November the sixth. We met in the morning and put together safe sex kits. Then we broke up into three teams, covering the north, south, and west sides of the city. There, we handed out our 'awesome night in a bag' kits. According to Kevin's estimate, as a team we reached out to 2,000 individuals and handed out approximately 500 safe sex kits. After this, we went to the Humboldt Park Soup Kitchen where we thought we'd just be serving the meal and chatting with the people there, but it turned out that the cooks weren't going to be coming that evening, so we made and served the entire meal for about 60 people. It was a great day for the team as we reached a huge population in Chicago.

The next week, Mallory and I planned the fifth day. We spent a few hours unloading supplies for a food pantry. In all, we unloaded about 3,000 pounds of food! Later on, we went to my agency, TPAN, and painted the entire staff area (which now looks phenomenal). We did however, sadly, lose one AmeriCorps sweatshirt to paint that day. RIP Katrece's sweatshirt.

(Katrece, happy, before the destruction of her sweatshirt)


(Davina, getting stuff done)

Next, we volunteered and attended the Chicago Youth Against AIDS conference. It was a forum that discussed HIV in the context of young adults. We discussed how kids can be comfortable in their skin, how to reach out to youth, and why we think young people are so complacent towards the disease.

The next week we ate a lot of turkey.

And then finally, for World AIDS Day, we had the honor of attending and volunteering at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's 'World of Chocolate' fundraiser. Taking place in the Hilton Chicago, this testament to AFC's prowess in the community redefined my concept of class. The Governor of Illinois, along with hundreds of others, enjoyed a huge variety of chocolate vendors as the AFC raised over $200,000 that evening.



And then Team Chicago, all dressed up, cleaned up the Hilton.

November was an exciting time for us. It seemed all of our fifth days took shape quickly and had a very real effect on the Chicago community. Our fifth days are a chance to reach out to communities we don't see Monday-Thursday. A chance to see Chicago from a new perspective and tackle problems you didn't know existed. A chance to help a larger community than you see at your agency and a time to see where your friends work everyday. Also, sometimes, you get free food.


I'll post again in January! From Team Chicago, Enjoy the holidays. And here's a holiday food tip:
Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

Monday, December 14, 2009

World AIDS Day Team Tulsa

on world aids day, lauren and i went to the university of tulsa (my alma mater) and provided testing for the students for five hours during the day. the event was well advertised and we had a great response. we did about thirty tests and even more individual counseling and risk assessment sessions. i love working at TU because i got my start in social justice work while i was attending school there. i'm so glad lauren got to share the day with me as well. i know the students appreciate the time we spend there. the night before world aids day, haley and i also did an education session to a group of TU students before they watched "and the band played on."

here's a little description of what sara and haley did:

Haley and I attended the Tulsa C.A.R.E.S. World Aids Day Symposium. It was a fantastic day; we had about 80 people show up for the event. We had pieces of the quilt and made our own poster with messages about people that we have lost to AIDS. We had vendors and speakers. Vendors from places like: HOPE testing, Red Cross, Tulsa Public Library, and Mac Cosmetics. The speakers spoke on topics such as women and sexuality, men and sexuality, legal issues, work force and job corps, and Hep C. It was a great turn out and will only grow larger each year. I was very proud to be a part of such a great event!!!

after spending the day split up, the team came together for our city's world aids day service at all souls unitarian church. the americorps team help to provide and set up refreshments for after the service. there were speakers, candle lighting, and a collection for the tulsa community aids project. it was a beautiful, touching ceremony.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Update from the District!



Hello fellow Awesomes,

It's finally time for team D.C. to update y'all on what we've been up to. We've been having so much fun at national days of service that we forgot to update the blog!

In honor of make a difference day, team D.C. booked it to the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in downtown Washington. We collaborated with a former NAF Team DC AmeriCorps member to help update library collections and facilitate the upcoming move that many DC library branches are undergoing.

The team was assigned to go down to "the cage". The cage is exactly that -- a dusty, dingy metal cage in the basement of the library that houses thousands of not-quite-shelf-ready articles. We spent hours in the cage re-labeling books and chatting it up with each other and some library employees. While the work was a tad mundane, it was awesome to be able to help the library out while conversing and bonding with team members!


We thought our Make A Difference Day Service was fun... but we had no idea how much fun was in store for us on World AIDS Day! The team traveled to Fairfax, VA -- the home of George Mason University -- to assist NOVAM (Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry) with their HIV testing event.

Some of us planted signs across campus, some of us heckled embarrassed college students into grabbing a few condoms, and some of us got to test and counsel George Mason University students. It was awesome! We helped NOVAM test a record number of people in one day.

Many panels of the AIDS quilt were on display. It was hard to see the memories that victims of AIDS have left behind; especially when I noticed on one panel, the person had been born the same year as me, but her life had been cut short in 1998. Even after one full year of service, acknowledging the full impact of this virus is very difficult.

Until next time,

xx

Team DC






Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WADIndy


Team Indianapolis came together on World AIDS Day 2009 to take part and assist with events that were already organized around the community. A choice was made to take part in these events and help with whatever was needed instead of putting together our own event or plan something separate on our own. The team's first task of the day was to help the Indiana State Department of Health publicly launch their new HIV testing campaign entitled, "One Test, Two Lives." The statewide campaign, put together by the ISDH and other local health organizations, was launched on December 1st, in order to curb the transmission of perinatal HIV transmission. The One Test, Two Lives campaign goals are to encourage all pregnant mothers in Indiana to be tested for HIV, no matter what, in order to prevent any more children in the state from catching HIV from their mothers during pregnancy and/or childbirth.



We spent out morning assisting One Test, Two Lives campaign staff, from the ISDH, set up their presentation forum, in the North Atrium of the Indiana State House. This venue placed The One Test, Two Lives campaign, as well as World AIDS Day literally right in the center of the state's arena for policy, law, and government. We were surrounded by the offices of state house and senate representations, state supreme court judges, and the governor and lieutenant governor.

The ceremony went without a hitch. Various doctors in the pediatric HIV field spoke, as well as the presentation of awards to supporters, and the reading of a piece written by an HIV-positive mother of two HIV-negative children. Press was invited to attend the event, to further assist with getting the message out that all mothers should be tested.

The evening of World AIDS Day had many events going on around the city, so the team divided the events in order to have a broader reach throughout the community. A local church, The Church Within, in downtown Indianapolis held a ceremony to honor those living with and those affected by HIV. The team helped with parking before the event and then with the event itself, which included performances by the men's and women's choirs, panels of the AIDS Quilt on display, as well as lots of cookies and punch! One local woman played the guitar while singing an original piece. Those wanting to participate in the memorial service were encouraged to light a candle and say the name of the person who they were remembering.

A second World AIDS Day event attended by team members, going on at the same time as The Church Within's event, was hosted by the Indiana Minority AIDS Coalition. This event, titled "The Courage To Live," commemorated World AIDS Day and honored champions in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The event was held at the Skyline club, on the 36th floor of Indianapolis' One America Building, the second-tallest building in the city. The event's keynote speaker was a consumer and client from one of the team's host agencies, the LifeCare Program of Clarian Health. Key players in the HIV community (individuals and organizations) were honored for their continued commitment to the fight against HIV.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Do you know your status?

On World AIDS Day the focus was on awareness and education for all within the Triangle area.

According to the CDC, HIV/AIDS has claimed the lives of over 550,000 Americans. Today about 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, and 1/5 of those infected are unaware of their infection. North Carolina reported 17,127 AIDS cases to the CDC in 2007. North Carolina ranked 13th among the 50 states in cumulative reported AIDS cases.


World AIDS Day started in December 1988. World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. The World AIDS Day theme for 2009 is 'Universal Access and Human Rights'. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.In September 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, world leaders agreed to a set of measurable goals for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental, degradation and discrimination against women. These are the Millennium Development Goals. One of these goals is to stop the spread of AIDS around the world by 2015. Our leaders made this promise. It is now up to them and us to keep it.



Team North Carolina spent this WAD on Decemeber 1st, at the Durham Hyati Heritage Center where 100+ Durham community members, local CBOs, friends, and family came together to remember those lost, those living and those preventing HIV/AIDS. Many of our team's agency's helped to sponsor the event. Before the event officially started there was testing offered upstairs at the Center where many locals were tested. Our team assisted with the ushering of people to their seats, anwsering of questions and passing out ribbons, information and light up AIDS ribbons for the remembrance ceremony. There were many different community groups that participated in the entertainment for the night highlights included a mime, youth chorus, solo vocalist and a dance troop. It was a memorable event for all.


New Years Resolution for Team NC: blog on time and all the time! :) Hope you all enjoyed your holidays!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gay Rodeo - Team NM

The New Mexico team was split up between two agencies, South West Cares (Trey's host site) and Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless (my host site) to do HIV testing, so Trey and I decided to both write a portion of the blog.

The day started out kind of slow for the first few hours, but somewhat entertaining what with the transexual women (many of whom had sashes indicating awards formally won), the many gay men who were working for other agencies, Alex the nurse who often works with Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless there doing Hepatitis vaccines, and last but not least my wonderful co-worker David and AmeriCorps team member Arika. There was also a very nice woman from Whole Foods there who was providing free organic fruit and health bars to people.

The day started to pick up about an hour and a half in, and I'm happy to say out of the 16 test we were trying to get done, we got twelve and spoke to many people about Health Care for the Homeless and general healthy sexual preferences.

Once our time was over, I had to take off and sadly didn't get to explore Gay Rodeo to much, but I had a wonderful time while there and left feeling quite accomplished, hough a little disappointed we didn't get to do any condom demonstrations despite our brand new wood dildos (I don't even know where the jokes begin and end with that) and my frequent offerings to show them off.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making a Difference in the South!

During our Make a Difference Weekend, of October 23, 2009, Team North Carolina started off the weekend with a lovely day at a park in Durham, NC partnered with the Vista AmeriCorps Literacy Program members. We helped to dig, fill and repair a disc golf course with park rangers from Durham Nature and Park Preservation. This disc golf course is used to help teach local youth a new game, build self esteem and have a great time while enjoying Mother Nature!


There were many dead and diseased trees which were removed from the park's forest system to keep the other trees healthy. The park rangers turned the deceased trees into mulch, which was then used by the AmeriCorps power team to move up the hill both ways to fill in the tees of the course. We made trips up and down, up and down the hill, shoveling and spreading mulch to help keep the erosion of the tees to a minimum. Since the course is built into the slope of a hill, during the rains the soil gets washed out not only ruining some of the holes, but complicating the wildlife's survival. The course needs to be ready for the ultimate disc golf tournament happening in mid-November.




While Kim and Erik were not able to be with us this day, they were with us in spirit, muscle, and sweat! We were able to get through 2 of the 18 holes before rain started to sprinkle down, and the next shift of Literacy AmeriCorps Members reported for duty! Our blood from blisters, sweat and tears of joy were left within that park, making our mark for the day!



Staci, Krupa and I spread the good word for AmeriCorps by rocking our amazing tees at the North Carolina State Fair! We were asked by several people about our exemplary work, and how to become a part of the team! Staci and Krupa indulged in true fair food by trying Fried Pickles. Other options included fried pie, fried chocolate bacon, fried cookies, oreos, fried ice cream, fried EVERYTHING! We watched the death defying carnival rides from a safe distance, sampled ice cream, and watched as kids with Superman balloons terrorized their siblings! All in good fair fun!



Saturday, October 24, 2009 Team North Carolina headed to Durant Nature Park to help with crafts during their annual fall festival. Batty Bats, and Friendly Bugs were crafted by children in costume. Princesses, Superman, Power Rangers, Witches, Storm Troopers, Yoda, Darth Vadar, Dinosaurs, Flowers, Kittens, and other characters crafted with the AmeriCorp team, as well as the Jesuit Volunteers from the Raleigh Area. The Jesuit Volunteers are a group of 6 gals who do similar work to AmeriCorp but their program also has a faith componenet to it. They all live simply and together in a house in Raleigh. Each one of them is vibrant and has a unique story. Earlier this year we had a mixer barbecue with them, and they will be joining us on other events throughout the year! The locals in search of fun and festivities entered the park starting around dusk, and were carried to the pumpkin patch where crafts took place by hay ride. Young and old enjoyed the fun!



After enjoying crafts and games, the next part of the fun was a nature trail. The trail was lite by carved friendly pumpkins and candles creating a scenic atmosphere. To the left of the trail was a man made lake surrounded by the yellow, orange and red leaves of fall. Throughout the trail were stations about local animals, a spider, a butterfly, a wolf. Very appropriate for the Halloween weekend looming just ahead in the future. At the end of the trail was a magician and CANDY!!! A rewarding part of this event was watching how the kids really enjoyed themselves, and were very respectful and eager to learn about nature.

Our Make a Difference Weekend was full of joint efforts with other volunteer groups from the Raleigh, and greater Triangle area. New friends were made. Laughs were had, as well as candy, fried food, and good times. It was really great to work specifically with issues that affect youth within the triangle area. While this event wasn't about health specifically, it had a focus on environmental health and how the world really belongs to all of us, especially our future leaders, our youth. It was a break from the health field, and from the norm. Working with youth is a fantastically rewarding experience. The comments that come out of their mouths are so silly and random that you just can't help but smile, and SMILE we did!!

More pictures and fun from Team NC to come! - Alexandra C.

A World of Difference: Team Detroit MADD Reporting

Picking up trash is a relaxing activity...

Okay, maybe not, but it does give you time to think. Below are some of the thoughts that passed through my head on Make A Difference Day.

Setting: It was 9am on a rainy Saturday and Team Detroit had made its way to a local park ready to make a difference by cleaning up the area.

…Make a difference, huh, what does that really mean? -Difference

…Out of the mandatory service days this one has the broadest title-"Make a Difference".

…Is it suppose to be a positive change?, and if so why isn't it called Make a Positive Impact Day, aside from the fact that MAPID is not as good of an abbreviation as MADD.

…Difference? I mean a lot of people have made a difference in our world, but not all of it good.

…Today on the 38th parallel where North and South Korea are divided, the 2 mile-wide Demilitarized Zone is one of Asia's premiere preserves for rare birds and other species. Does that mean that Kim Jong Il has made a difference for his role in creating a habitat for endangered animals? Never mind the millions of starving North Koreans, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or the wanton human rights violations"

...no I'm sure that's not what NAF had in mind for AmeriCorps’ Make a Difference Day.

Aside from the wide array of thoughts that come to mind while picking up trash, often you make observations about your surroundings. In a way you become a forensic detective combing the grass, the play structures, and the basketball court for the next clue; like piecing together a puzzle..."why is there a lighter next to this New England Patriots football bib?...I must continue to investigate".

The real prizes of course are the condoms. Picking up discarded condoms also drew me back into thought. The overarching moral quandary I had regarding these condoms was this; should I be mad that someone didn't properly dispose of their condom (see HIV 101 training ala Santa Fe), or should I be happy that they were at least practicing safer sex? After thinking about this issue some more I realized that the same type of question could be applied to our entire clean up effort: should I be mad at people for disposing of trash and lude items so cavalierly, or should I appreciate that someone had been here utilizing this space?

The second part of our day gave me another perspective on my internal struggle. Team Detroit dedicated the afternoon to working at Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Most of the items from chairs to brick pavers were items that had been discarded by their previous owners, but here these supplies would be reused to hopefully improve someone else's life...giving credence to the adage "one man’s trash, is someone else's treasure".

If picking trash up gives you time to reflect, then lifting pallets of bricks and pieces of lumber instills the value of teamwork. Throughout the day shouts of "come on guys, make a difference" could be heard from team members buoying the spirits of the group as we lifted, shifted, and hauled everything from soggy drywall to a swing set. One unintended benefit to all this human debris was the opportunity for seven people to come together as a team to improve their community. Actually, this is an important pivot on which service rests; working together for the purpose of renewing the "commons".

This idea of the "commons" got back to my original question about those condoms and the bigger question of how we view our society; and here are some more thoughts (sorry):

Too often has the theory that individuals act in their own self interest when utilizing shared resources, been used to justify the individualization of previously held common resources -Thanks Garrett Hardin! Doing service, however, we must recognize that this concept of poisoning the well is not an explanation of how we interact with society, but merely a negative view of reality. I deny that we ever saw the tragedy of the commons play out to its maximum, but that the conception of what should be held "common" has shifted with time and place; from land in the middle ages, to a commons of consciousness, seen in the democratization of countries, to today and the new push for greater social responsibility.

This burgeoning idea of increasing our responsibility to one another will be tested on issues such as the impending health care legislation. When a public health option is presented to us we have to ask ourselves the same question I faced while staring at that mangled piece of latex. Are we as a society going to be angry that other people get sick, or will we be proud that it is because of the collective that everyone has access to affordable treatment?

It is how we answer this question that truly makes a difference. To be sure, Team Detroit made its difference by beatifying a park, but the measurement of Difference is whether or not we captured the spirit of giving back to our "commons". I’m not advocating that we tolerate people dumping garbage into our parks, but what I’m insisting is that we look for the good in the things that connect our society. And when its time to put in the work necessary to maintain or improve what we hold collectively that we do so, not with contempt for others, but with an enthusiasm that captures the positive essence of community service.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It was October. This is Chicago.


Dear Friends,
This is Team Chicago's first post! Very exciting. In fact, almost as exciting as the hugely fun and helpful events we have planned and been a part of.

First off though, let me start with my agency and tell you how much better we are than your agency. Test Positive Aware Network, or TPAN, is based on the northside of Chicago. Our staff and volunteers form the most diverse team I have ever been a part of. Most are HIV positive and identify as sexual or ethnic minorities. Though this is unsurprising, the amount of effort and genuine passion each and every member of the team have for our client base is inspiring. Every day I come into work is another day I discover new lengths that they will go for our clients, new problems that they will overcome, and new venues that we can use. Not to mention that hilarity ensues everyday from coworkers who enjoy working together. TPAN is like Voltron. Together, we make a huge difference. If you have never watched Voltron, reassess your priorities.

On to Team Chicago's October.

1. Team Chicago got a new city supervisor in addition to Cynthia! Melissa has come into her job and become a part of our team in no time at all. She is our go to lady and we all appreciate her very much.

2. Our October started with AIDS Walk Chicago on the 3rd.
The race is a 5k held every year by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and is a major fundraiser for the city. Our team woke up bright and early to help out with the race which has raised over $2 million since 2001.

3. For Make a Difference Day, Team Chicago headed over to Regina's host agency, the Southside Help Center, where we spent the day making thousands of safe sex kits, which the Help Center uses for outreach and prevention. The Help Center was very grateful and we were happy because nothing builds strong teams like stuffing condoms into plastic baggies as demonstrated by the pictures below.


4. Proving that we are indeed the best Team, Maggie paid us a visit this past weekend, and our fifth day was spent with her. We spent time talking about our Team and what the NAF can do to support all of their AmeriCorps members. As always, she was helpful and we had an awesome time. She got to have a site visit and meet with our city supervisors. Moreover, she guided us with early planning of our long term project. Melissa, our new city supervisor, is also in the picture below. And Maggie's hot new hair.


Overall, our October went very well. As a team we have definitely gotten closer and more effective. Our Fifth Days are becoming more helpful as well. This Friday will consist of street outreach and education. I think I can speak for my team when I say that so far, my AmeriCorps experience has consisted of physically exhausting hours and emotionally taxing situations, and I don't care because it is awesome.

Update soon.

Best,
Arun.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Make a Difference Weekend

Make a Difference Day has been observed on the 4th Saturday of October since 1992. It is a national service day, created to encourage people to spend the day volunteering in their communities.

As AmeriCorps members committed to full-time community service, we want every day to be a “make a difference” day! The 4th weekend of October happened to be a weekend when two major events to benefit the HIV+ community of Indianapolis were taking place. So Team Indy decided to celebrate Make a Difference WEEKEND, offering service at both the Grande Masquerade benefit for the Damien Center on Saturday, and the AIDS Quilt Memorial service on Sunday.

The Grande Masquerade is an annual event held by the Damien Center, which is the largest organization serving HIV/AIDS infected and affected persons in Indianapolis and is the service agency where 2 of our members are placed. Over 600 guests were expected, each paying $135-175 for their ticket. A silent auction is held, as well as a costume contest, and of course food, drinks, and dancing. We had our work cut out for us!

The team met up at the downtown Marriott bright and early Saturday morning, where we were joined by an eager group of staff and volunteers all psyched to set up for this event. It’s so exciting how many people are willing to give their time to an event like this just because they CARE so much! We had fun setting up decorations, matching auction items with bidding sheets, and getting everything ready for the big event.

Photobucket
Hard at work!

Around 3pm, we broke to go home and get dressed up. We re-convened at the Marriott a few hours later, having changed out of our AmeriCorps gear and into our finest formal-wear!

Photobucket
All dressed up.

After a wonderful time Saturday night, the team pressed on for another day of service on Sunday. We met up Sunday morning at the Indiana AIDS Fund building to haul out the memorial quilts and transport them to the Crown Hill Cemetary. The weather was beautiful, which we were thrilled about. We set up the quilts for display on the cemetary grounds. We carefully laid each quilt upon a tarp, reflecting as we did this on the lives of those memorialized on the quilts. The rest of the day was spent directing traffic, offering information and support to those attending the event, and cleaning up afterward.The team then took some photos of ourselves enjoying the beautiful fall day.

Photobucket
Setting up the memorial quilts.

Photobucket
The team stands together at Crown Hill Cemetery, atop the highest point in Indianapolis with our city skyline behind us.

Photobucket
Playing in the leaves!




We had a wonderful time making a difference this weekend, and are excited to continue making a difference every day by serving others and inspiring others to serve too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The Indianapolis AIDS Walk took place on Saturday October 10th.  Team Indy (minus Oliver :( who was sick) was up before the sun setting up tents, blowing up balloons, testing the bounce house, and making sure the park looked spectacular for the Health Fair.  


We had a great day of team bonding and doing whatever we could to make the day a success!  Tons of people came out for the event and participated in the 5k walk.  One of our many roles for the day was to watch over the four panels of the Names Quilt that were on display.  Many of the former Indianapolis Americorps volunteers showed up and almost all of our host agencies participated in the Health Fair!  It was a wonderful day and the walk raised over $150,000 for the Gregory R. Powers Direct Emergency Financial Assistance Fund.  We wrapped up our 12 hour day at the Indianapolis Expo where we played around with giant parade floats and decorations.  Here is a picture of our team in a giant red high heel! 


On October 15, Team Indianapolis celebrated National Latino HIV Testing Day by attending Casa Mateo's Health Fair. We partnered with Planned Parenthood and passed out information in both Spanish and English.  When we had down time, we put together some bilingual safer sex kits and discussed ideas for our long term project.  The event had a nice crowd, and it felt good to be a part of the community! 


Team Indy!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

youth outreach in Indianapolis

Hello, world! My name is Oliver Danni Green and I'm a member of Team Indianapolis. My service placement is at the Damien Center, the largest HIV/AIDS service agency in Indiana. My job as Prevention Outreach Coordinator gives me the freedom to partner with allied community organizations and offer prevention services to them. Since I’m always excited about finding creative ways to offer services, this is great for me because each organization has different needs and I get to work with them to figure out how I can serve them best, rather than taking a cookie-cutter approach and trying to do the exact same thing for everybody.

One of the organizations I have begun partnering with is the Indiana Youth Group. This organization has been around since 1987, providing services and a safe space for youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities. IYG has been stepping up their efforts to provide HIV and STD prevention information to the youth they serve, and they are doing an excellent job of it! I’ve been so impressed by how much information the youth at IYG already know, and unfortunately they are not learning it in their schools – when I ask them where they learned about this, they always tell me they learned it at IYG and that nobody is talking to them about it in school.

Recently, IYG held a benefit concert featuring the Athens Boys Choir – a one-transman hip-hop/spoken-word artist named Katz from Athens, GA – and an open mike for the IYG youth. Katz is one of my favorite performers, and he did a wonderful job of making the show about celebrating the youth and the work of IYG. Everyone involved with this event was just incredible – the youth who performed, the staff who put the event together, the folks who donated space for the event, and the community members who came out to support the benefit.

This was exciting for me because it was my first opportunity to do outreach at a community event as a representative of AmeriCorps and the Damien Center! I brought a big rolly-bucket of condom kits, lube, dental dams, female condoms, awareness pendants, and lots of pamphlets. They gave me a table to sit at with all the supplies, and when people came to my table I would offer them free stuff and answer any questions they had. I got to talk with lots of youth that night and, interestingly enough, the most frequent response to my presence was something like “Thank you so much for being here; it’s really great what you’re doing...but, personally, I’ve chosen not to have sex yet, I’m not ready.” These are youth who, because of their involvement at IYG, have learned enough accurate information about sexual activity to make the decision to postpone it without judgment. Of those who did help themselves to the free supplies, the most popular item was the dental dams – and, knowing that oral sex is the activity people are most likely to engage in without protection since it’s perceived as a lower risk, I’m always THRILLED to see people so excited about supplies specifically for the purpose of safer oral sex!

Overall, it was a great experience. I look forward to many more opportunities to serve with the Indiana Youth Group and to work with other organizations to offer this kind of prevention outreach in ways that best support the populations they serve!

Friday, October 2, 2009

On behalf of a fellow member...

"As an AmeriCorps service member who receives a living stipend for the work I do at my agency, I am always blown away by the abundant generosity of the many people who volunteer their time at our agency without being paid a cent. One in particular really touched me today and I wanted to share this experience while preserving the confidentiality of those mentioned, so I have asked Maggie to post this story so that it will not be traceable to the agency I work at.

I had a stressful day at work yesterday, as surely most AmeriCorps members have experienced. I was pretty upset by an interaction I had with someone and I really didn't want to go back in today. But as soon as I walked in the office, I was greeted with a huge smile by one of our regular volunteers. She told me how glad she was to see me today and I could tell that she really meant it. I smiled back and told her I was really glad to see her too, and after talking with her for a few minutes I knew today was going to be MUCH better than yesterday.

People volunteer at our agency for all different reasons. Many of our volunteers are HIV-positive or have family members who are positive.
This particular volunteer has an adult son who is HIV-positive. What makes this person's story so powerful for me is that her son also volunteers at our agency, and he speaks very openly about the risk behaviors he used to engage in (commercial sex work and IV drug use).
Unlike many parents who reject their kids when they contract HIV, or when they find out about the behaviors their child has engaged in regardless of whether those activities led to HIV infection, this woman told her son that she loves him no matter what. He has long since quit working the streets and using drugs, and she has stuck by him all through his recovery. The two of them volunteer several days a week each at our agency, and the work they do is in areas that truly have the greatest impact on the ability of the center to function -- we simply could not run this show without them. Every time I see them I am filled with hope.

You don't have to be a superhero or a saint to make a difference in someone's life. The people in this field who are making a difference are the ones who bring their hearts with them. It's the people who show up and "love no matter what" who are transforming the world we live in. It's the people who take a few minutes out of their day to let someone know how glad they are to see them, even without knowing what a difference those few words have made in the heart of a person who was afraid today would be an awful one. Yesterday I left work feeling like nothing I did would ever really make a difference. Today I knew as soon as I came in that I really AM making a difference, just by showing up...and it felt so good to be able to share that feeling with someone whose service I admire so profoundly!"

--2009-2010 National AIDS Fund AmeriCorps member

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Team Detroit AIDS Walk Fundraiser


Greetings from Detroit!

One week ago Team Detroit spent Team Day raising money for AIDS Walk Michigan, which will take place on October 3rd.

Our team set up at a busy Kroger's grocery store. We set up a table with information on the walk as well as pamphlets on HIV/AIDS, STD's and condoms. The night before Team Day we asked the youth at a members agency to help by making posters, which we hung in and around Kroger's. Throughout the day we split up in teams of 2 with one team manning the table and entrance and exits. The other teams walked the mall surrounding Kroger.

In just 7 hours we raised $310! Just as important, we were able to increase awareness and engage in very important conversations with members of our community! We're really excited and proud of our efforts that day. We're looking forward to walking in the AIDS Walk Michigan on Belle Isle October 3rd.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Welcome 2009-2010 NAF AmeriCorps/Caring Counts Members!




Now that you have been on and local for a full month, what thoughts would you like to share with other teams regarding your service activities to date? Please don't wait--start the fun today!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in Santa Fe

Hard work paid off for AmeriCorps/National AIDS Fund Team New Mexico! In January we decided our LTP would include a Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display. Becky served as liaison with the Names Project and on Wednesday morning, June 24 under the engineering guidance of Martin Walker, our City Supervisor, the team hung eight panels of the AIDS Quilt. Some months ago, we had selected two panels that had special significance for us and invited others from the community to select some. When the quilt was hung, we were overwhelmed with emotion at the panels we had chosen, as well as those selected for us by the Names Project. But this was only the beginning!
On Thursday evening and with the quilt as a backdrop, a local theater group, directed by a friend of Bo's, presented a play called "The Yellow Boat" written by David Saar about his son who died at age 5 from AIDS, having contracted the virus from contaminated Factor 8. The play was attended by about 50 people who joined the cast and team for refreshments following.
The piece de resistance, however, was presented on Friday evening: The Red Ribbon Fashion Show. Stephen Roussel, our Team Coordinator and show producer, had previously recruited local designers to create fashions for this event. Becky, Ben and Stephen, along with community friends, modeled the outfits while Pauly served as stage manager and Bo as caterer. Following the show, the New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus serenaded while folks enjoyed the spread!
Saturday afternoon during Santa Fe PRIDE, over 130 people came to view the quilt in silence. During the entire four days the quilt was on display close to 350 people came to honor those memorialized by the quilts made by friends, lovers, parents, children, siblings, husbands, wives. Team New Mexico honored them as well by reading the names before dismantling the display, folding the panels and boxing them for return to the Names Project.
Two hundred and fifty dollars was collected during the display and will be donated to the Santa Fe Mountain Center's Meditation Garden in honor of Kahlo Benevides.
Mounting an AIDS Memorial Quilt display is an intensely moving experience, one which deeply reinforces the significance of the work we do as AmeriCorps/National AIDS Fund members.
Submitted by Bo Keppel

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We're so excited and we just can't hide how much we love our LTP!

Team Charlotte, an all female team, embraced our lack of testosterone and decided to form a women’s service group with clients from the different areas that we serve. It has been named “positive women doing positive things” and that is exactly what we have been doing for the past month alongside our new friends. Every Friday we meet and do a service project in one of the four counties that we serve. We have been getting our hands quite literally dirty, but not without lack of laughter and forging new relationships.
Our group has clicked better than we ever thought it would. Even at the first meeting our women were open and talking so much we had to bring it to an end so we could get instructions for our service project. That day we painted flower pots and potted plants to give to a local crisis center. While we were working we were surprised to hear that one of our women has a beautiful singing voice. We convinced her to sing for us while we worked, and she has been singing while serving ever since.
A different woman from our group shared with us her talents for our next service day. She is a cake decorator and she came with cupcakes and multicolored icing to teach us a few techniques. We had a great time decorating cupcakes to give to the House of Mercy, a local living facility for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, our group was pleasantly surprised when there were multiple extras and soon we were enjoying our creations.
Next, we headed down to Rock Hill to give back to the Catawba Care Coalition, an AIDS service organization that resides in South Carolina. Our members that are placed there realized that there was a need for a new bench so clients can have a comfortable place to sit and wait for their transportation. With tools and bench pieces in hand we constructed a bench to be placed outside. Also, that day served as an educational day as we listed to Dr. Wess give a presentation about drug adherence before lunch. We all learned something new from the presentation, not to mention the chili and baked potato bar they brought was amazing.
We then met in the great state of Mecklenburg County and worked pulling weeds for the local day shelter’s organic garden. Even though it was ninety degrees and the air was thick the group pulled through, and literally pulled hundreds of weeds in a matter of an hour. Moving into the AC the group then made an art project for RAIN, an agency that serves thirteen counties and has in some way touched the lives of all the women in our group. We each painted small canvases, putting them together to form a modern version of a quilt that will hang in the RAIN waiting room as thanks for all the men and women they serve.
In just a few days we will sadly have our final meeting with the women. We are all very sad to see the group end. It also makes it harder when the women say comments about how this has been such a great thing and they don’t want it to stop. We hope to at least end it on a high note with a nice lunch and activities to reflect on all we have accomplished. Our hopes for this group are that through this experience they will realize the importance of service and do more in their communities. We feel like the women of the group have given gifts to us, and we hope we have given some to them in return. We know for sure that we brought together a strong group of fourteen women who will always be connected from here on out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thought this was worthy of sharing with the collective. The need for the work we do continues...



Thursday, May 28, 2009

Opinion
    'Complacency,' 'Stigma' Hindering Efforts To Reduce HIV/AIDS in Black Communities, Opinion Piece Says

"Nearly 30 years after the discovery of HIV and AIDS, the epidemic is still ravaging black neighborhoods in Baltimore and across the nation," Kevin Fenton -- director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention -- writes in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece. Fenton writes that "complacency about HIV and the continued stigma associated with the disease are hindering progress by preventing too many African-Americans from seeking either HIV testing and treatment or support from their friends and family," adding that "this is a challenge that can be overcome."

According to Fenton, the Obama administration last month "took an important step in confronting the United States' HIV epidemic" when CDC and White House officials announced a five-year campaign called Act Against AIDS, which is "designed to refocus the nation's attention on the HIV crisis here at home." Fenton notes that 14 black civic organizations -- including NAACP, the National Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Council of Negro Women -- are "joining the CDC to increase knowledge, awareness and action within black communities across the country." He adds that the campaign "will harness the strength and reach of these organizations by enhancing their ability to make HIV prevention a core component of their daily activities."

"By raising the visibility of HIV and AIDS, the new campaign also aims to confront and overcome the fear and stigma that help keep HIV alive in black communities," Fenton says. He adds that he has "been encouraged in recent years to see black leaders, including black faith leaders, speak out more openly across the nation about the need to confront HIV and the stigma that persists surrounding this disease." Fenton writes that "[e]nding this epidemic will require not only frank and difficult discussions about HIV but also a shared sense of responsibility and commitment," concluding, "All of us can and must be part of the solution" (Fenton, Baltimore Sun, 5/27).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Team Charlotte goes to Raleigh

With the AmeriCorps caring counts team moving from Charlotte to Raleigh, we took the opportunity of AmeriCorps week to promote what AmeriCorps has meant in Charlotte. We as a team took a short road trip to Raleigh and met with the new operating site, The Center for Health Policy at Duke University. We were really excited to offer whatever help that we could while the new city supervisor is taking on the hard task of establishing a team. For the afternoon we answered many questions ranging from what activities are best for 5th days, to the different projects that are being undertaken for the Long Term Project. To add some further insight, we were accompanied by our city supervisor Patty and last year’s team coordinator, Katie. It was a great day of reflection and collaboration of ideas. The next day Team Charlotte along with Katie and Patty enjoyed doing what we as AmeriCorps members do best, hands on service. We began the day splitting up in three groups and delivering meals for the Raleigh branch of Meal on Wheels. Afterwards, we regrouped and headed over to the Raleigh food bank, where we inspected over 9,000 eggs to ensure quality for distribution. At this point our trip came to a close as we drove back home after an eventful two days.
The Better Way Foundation has introduced the First National HIV/AIDS Online Support Group run by positive individuals who care to help those with HIV live longer, better, healthier lives.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

National AmeriCorps Week / Team Indy

May the child in us never go away!  

National AmeriCorps Week in Indianapolis was observed by Team Indy along with the Boys & Girls Club and Grow Indiana, two State sanctioned AmeriCorps programs.  Working with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. forty-six members convened at Washington Park (the original site of the Indianapolis Zoo) to help facilitate the ultimate plan of planting 2,000 adolescent aged trees in various locations in the Indianapolis vicinity.

Working in tandem with members from the other two Americorps teams, we unloaded and sorted every tree according to its species.....there sure is a lot more to a tree's name than what most of us grew up learning.  Probably the highlight of the day for Team Indy was being assigned to fill the landscape truck's  water supply.....from a fire hydrant!  Here's where the little boy and girl in each of us came out.

Whether it was thoughts of firemen and their hoses or perhaps just playing in the powerful stream of water that an open hydrant produces, this was pretty exciting.  After being instructed on the "how to", we proceeded to "get 'er done".  A funky looking tool, a fifty foot hose and a fire hydrant lay waiting for us to tackle.  Needless to say, as has been the case all year long, each of us simply assumed a place somewhere in the project and proceeded to facilitate the transfer of water from the hydrant to the huge reservoir inside the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful truck.  We had already had an opportunity to work with these folks just a little over a month ago in the neighborhood clean-up project which was part of the Extreme Makeover Home Edition master plan.

Once all the water was transferred to individual buckets, all of the AmeriCorps members began the tedious job of watering hundreds of growing trees that we had just sorted by species.  About half-way into the watering project Mother Nature decided she wanted in on this Beautification project and began to bless us with beautiful but cold rain.  (Editor's Note:  The truth is Mother Nature's contribution was in response to Jamie's incredible rain dance she performed when a mouse scampered out of the high grasses while we were transferring the water from the hydrant and headed straight for her feet.)

Once the work we were asked to do was complete everyone journeyed to a local city park where, under a shelter we shivered, ate lunch provided by the State Office of Faith Based & Community Initiatives, and had an AmeriCorps Recognition service that the Team Coordinators facilitated. Not only did we have another super Fifth Day kind of moment with one another, we were able to meet others who simply want to give back to our community in a tangible way that will make a positive difference! 

Friday, May 22, 2009

AmeriCorps Week Team Tulsa!!!!!!


For AmeriCorps week, Team Tulsa went to Tulsa Community College and spoke to a Developmental Psychology class about AmeriCorps. We discussed our team, host sites, and duties. We addressed the education award, what we have done for 5th days, and our long term project. We also told them about other AmeriCorps programs in Oklahoma that we knew about. We passed our general AC information that included fact sheets, bookmarks, and stickers. The class was very responsive. A few people asked general question, but most of them were curious about HIV/AIDS statistics in Tulsa and where they could get tested.
During the week when Cory went to schools with the Red Cross, she passed out information about AmeriCorps to her classes. They were mostly high schoolers and a few younger kids.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

AmeriCorps Week in New Mexico


On Tuesday, May 11th Team New Mexico conducted a recruiting effort on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The day was bright and sunny with highs around 95, but the wind never stopped and we had found trees under which to set up our table so we were not uncomfortable. Once Stephen and Bo, the two white, really white, non-burn-proof Anglos, doused themelves with 45 SPF sun screen, we were ready for business.


Unfortunately, UNM students were not ready for us, despite the great AmeriCorps "Getting Things Done" poster and the eye-catching signs Becky made announcing we had JOBS and listing some salient statistics from the website. The students seemed much more interested in getting to their exams (duh!)


Undeterred, Bo set out to accost students where they sat at lunch, studying in groups, running across the quad. She distributed about 50 information sheets made up from the website and answered questions from “Can I do dental hygiene as part of AmeriCorps?” (“Probably not “) to “Do they really pay for graduate school?” (“Partially.”) She also spoke with several folks whose sister, brother, aunt, daughter, grandson, boyfriend, etc. was currently, had been, plans to, etc. I get involved in AmeriCorps.


Stephen and Pauly in the meantime, posted another 50 info sheets on all the kiosks they could find in their 45 minute tour of the campus while Becky and Ben staffed the table, just in case someone stopped by – and about ten folks did. As we were leaving we were stopped by a student on a bike who asked us “Are you guys AmeriCorps?” (It amazed Bo that he had recognized us until Ben pointed out that our AmeriCorps tee shirts had probably clued him in!) He said he had signed up for one of the forest programs and was having his phone interview the next day. What he really wanted to know was if it was fun and if we thought he could survive it for 10 months. We told him, Hey, we were surviving it for 11 months and loving it and we were sure he would too. He seemed cool with that, thanked us and rode off!


We all then went to an Italian restaurant for lunch to talk once again about what a great team we are, how much we have accomplished (well maybe not so much that day!) and how much we love being together. Ben and Bo left early to get Ben to his exams in Santa Fe (!) by 5PM!


Overall, another great effort by Team New Mexico to spread the word on what terrific work AmeriCorps can do.
By Bo Keppel
Team New Mexico

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Team New Mexico Youth Service Day (part 2)



Our Youth Service Day started out with the team meeting at Bo’s house at eleven in the morning on Friday, April 24. We helped out at an Earth Day fair that was being hosted in Taos with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. The five of us squeezed into her Forrester like contortionists and took off on the hour and a half drive up north. When we arrived, one of the first things we noticed was the wind; Taos was surprisingly windy that day.
When we got to Taos Charter School, we saw that almost everything was being held outside. There were maybe twenty people within view, most of them volunteers, so we weren’t necessarily impressed by the amount of people in the beginning. We walked around a bit looking at all of the projects being presented by the students and volunteers. The things that they had been doing to save the planet were very interesting and the children were more than willing to demonstrate their designs and ideas to us. There were five main stations of projects that were to be done: mulching, composting, tree planting, weed recognition, and reusable bags.
The first boy we talked to had a lot to say about palm oil and the effects harvesting it has on the environment. After his presentation, it was time to learn how to lay mulch. We shoveled wood chips onto newspaper for about half an hour; with all the helping hands of other volunteers and kids, this task was easily completed. We wanted to help with building a compost bin but there were more than enough hands there as well. We decided to take a look at the newly-built greenhouse; its opening was one of the biggest events happening that day. There were just a few seedlings around but it looked like they were on a great start. After that, we walked over to where some people were digging holes for new trees so we saw that as an opportunity to get our hands dirty, literally.
While we were planting a fruit tree, out of nowhere a small tornado flew over the parking lot and around the wooden fence that secluded the garden from the world. It was incredibly breath-taking, scary, and exciting all at the same time, we had a good laugh about it afterwards. We then walked into a classroom full of children learning about local weeds and how they reproduce, grow, and if they’re dangerous. A sixth-grade boy taught us how to compost using nothing more than egg cartons, fruit peels, and earthworms. He said that his class had started their own composting bin, making it out of plastic containers and different materials, and that they got the entire school involved and that now every classroom has a compost bin of their own. The final station was the “make your own” reusable shopping bag out of recycled materials. We were so tired by this time from the overwhelming, yet enjoyable duties that we opted to call it a day.


All in all, we had a great day. It’s always great to see a younger generation doing their part of saving the world, and just to see a different way of living. It’s exciting.

-Pauly and Team NM

Monday, May 11, 2009

Many lives, One road, Walk Together



The lovely ladies of team Charlotte participated in the 13th annual AIDS Walk Charlotte on Saturday, May 2, 2009. AIDS Walk Charlotte is the largest HIV/AIDS awareness and fundraising event in the Carolina's. All the money raised stays here in our community and goes to RAIN, my host agency, who serves clients in 13 different counties in North and South Carolina. We were able to meet Greg Louganis, the Olympic diver, and hear his story of living HIV-positive. People from all walks of live came out to show their support, from infants to senior citizens, high schools and colleges, community leaders and churches alike. With just over 3,000 participants we collected over $215,000! RAIN plays a very important role in the lives of our friends with HIV here in the Charlotte area, Team Charlotte is excited to have been a part of such an amazing day!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Team Indianapolis Survives Global Youth Service Day...Barely.


Kids. Who doesn’t love them, right? Well, hopefully team Indy still loves them after our experience at Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School. For our Global Youth Service Day experience, we teamed up with the Peer Helpers of Whiteland Community High School. The Peer Helpers had organized a pirate themed evening full of activities to help the Clark-Pleasant Elementary School fourth grade students transition to the Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School fifth grade. It was so great to be able to work with high school students that had already fostered a love for service.

When we arrived at Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School, I think each member of Team Indianapolis was thinking, “Save me.” The first thing we saw was a cafeteria full of little fourth graders running around and doing art projects along side a large group of turquoise shirt-clad high school Peer Helpers. Wow. There was a lot going on. We were led to an auxiliary room where we met Alex, a Peer Helper with the phrase “future leader” written all over his face. Not literally, but let’s just say Alex knew what was going on at all times.

While the rest of the Peer Helpers were working with the kids in the cafeteria, Team Indy made a game plan…regarding the games. Yup. That’s right. We were put in charge of the game room. In other words, mass chaos. We had Red Light-Green Light, Down by the Banks, Salt and Pepper, and Parrot Parrot Pirate (formerly known as Duck Duck Goose). It’s definitely been a while since any of us have played these games. After a brief refresher from our man Alex, we were ready to go…or so we thought.

The kids starting coming in droves, and they immediately ran toward the twenty plus balloons in the center of the room. (SIDENOTE: Never EVER give balloons to fourth graders. Trust Team Indy. It’s not a pretty sight.) With the help of the Peer Helpers, we calmed the kids down, recovered some of the balloons, and split the kids into groups.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!! The next thirty minutes were such a blur I don’t think I can adequately recount them. I did, however, learn that I didn’t fully remember the rules of Duck Duck Goose. How soon we forget…right? In all seriousness, I think the fourth graders really enjoyed this portion of their evening. It was easy for them to let loose, meet some new friends, and have fun. It was also a great opportunity for the Peer Helpers to get exposure to AmeriCorps and see how they can use their passion for service in the future.

After the games, we helped the Peer Helpers gather the kids and shooed them back into the cafeteria. It took us a while to catch our breaths and register what just happened, but in the end I think everyone, Team Indy, the Clark-Pleasant Elementary fourth graders, and the Whiteland Community High School Peer Helpers, truly enjoyed the experience.

Emily Kitchin
Team Indianapolis
National AIDS Fund AmeriCorps/Caring Counts 2008-2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Team New Mexico Youth Service Day (part 1)

Gathering of Nations 2009

Take an 80 degree day with a 40 mile-an-hour wind, add drumming and chanting, brightly adorned dancers, the aroma of fry bread and Indian tacos, turquoise and silver for miles, smiles on faces smooth and wrinkled - and you have the 27th Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, the largest Native American event in the world and AmeriCorps/National AIDS Fund New Mexico was there!

How honored we were to attend this celebration of Native Americans and First Peoples at the invitation of the New Mexico Hepatitis Alliance, Navaho AIDS Network and First Nations Community Healthsource. This collaboration of healthcare non-profits offered information on HIV, viral Hepatitis and STD’s, as well as condoms, lubricant, dental dams and red ribbons. It was amazing to see those condoms jump out of their basket and into people’s pockets! With almost 14,000 in attendance, the majority of them representing over 200 Native tribes and clans from the United States and Canada, the potential for education was great.

Helping to staff the booth, we spoke to elders who giggled and covered their mouths in embarrassment as they realized our information concerned SEX, to young folks who surreptitiously palmed condoms as they smilingly pretended to listen to our spiel, to little ones grabbing at freebees as we struggled to retrieve the condoms and substitute the red ribbons! However, many people young and old, Native and non-Native took our information and asked relevant questions. AmeriCorps/NAF New Mexico helped make a difference at the Gathering of Nations 2009!






By Bo Keppel

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tulsa's National Youth Service Day!



Team Tulsa went to Kendall Whittier Elementary School. According to the most recent data I could find on Tulsa Public School's website, over 80% of the children at Kendall Whittier are on free or reduced lunch programs, meaning they are at or below the poverty line.

The service we provided consisted of working in their clothing closet. This resource is available to the students to receive clothing if they are in need. It is also available in case the younger children have accidents during the day. We moved the winter clothes out, put summer clothes in, and refolded and organized everything that was there. We even had a parent come into the closet and inform us she had just gone through her daughter's old clothes and wanted to donate them to the closet!

We really enjoyed this service day. It was so fulfilling to be part of something that was benefitting children in our community. The school is about four or five blocks from my house, so it definitely had a personal impact on me. I did volunteer work for this school while in college, but never knew the clothing closet existed. Sara has already planned a meeting with our contact to help with future Fifth Days for this and next year's teams! Plus, there was a rare sight to be seen: I wore my AmeriCorps shirt! :)

Samantha Young
Team Tulsa!

"Let Us Not Forget"

Team Indianapolis' documentary DVD, designed to raise the awareness level within all communities of people that HIV/AIDS is still a serious threat to health and life, received even more data and facts undergirding the premise used to support the need for this project. We want to share that information with you to assist with your "talking points" in the valuable work you are doing in your communities.



NEWS RELEASE
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LESS THAN A YEAR AFTER CDC ANNOUNCED THE U.S. HIV EPIDEMIC IS MUCH LARGER THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT, PUBLIC’S SENSE OF URGENCY IS DOWN, EVEN AMONG SOME HIGHER RISK GROUPS

Sense of Personal Risk Falls for Young Adults, Testing Rates are Stagnant

Amidst Call for Stepped Up Focus on Domestic HIV/AIDS, There is Public Support for More Spending and the Public Believes Greater Efforts on Prevention Will Make a Difference


Washington, DC – Less than a year after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recalculated the size of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and announced that there were 40 percent more new HIV infections each year than previously believed, a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that Americans’ sense of urgency about HIV/AIDS as a national health problem has fallen dramatically and their concern about HIV as a personal risk has also declined, even among some groups at higher risk.


Key findings of the survey include:

The share of Americans naming HIV/AIDS as the most urgent health problem facing the nation dropped precipitously from 44 percent in 1995 to 17 percent in 2006 and to six percent now.
CDC estimates that HIV rates are seven times higher among African Americans and three times higher among Latinos compared to whites. While these groups are more likely than whites to see HIV/AIDS as an urgent problem, fewer say it is a “more urgent” problem for their community now than in 2006 (declining from 23% to 17% of all adults, 49% to 40% of African Americans, and 46% to 35% of Latinos).
The share of those ages 18-29 who say they are personally very concerned about becoming infected with HIV declined from 30 percent in 1997 to 17 percent today; personal concern among young African Americans declined from 54 percent to 40 percent over the same time period.
More than half (53%) of non-elderly adults say they have been tested for HIV, including 19 percent who say they were tested in the past year. Testing is most common among adults under the age of 30, with three in ten young adults and nearly half (47%) of young African Americans reporting having been tested in the past year. However, reported testing rates for all these groups have not changed much in the past decade.
“Many indicators of urgency and concern are moving in the wrong direction, including for higher risk groups,” said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman. “The survey underscores the need for a new focus on domestic HIV,” he added.

At a time when there have been calls for increased attention to the domestic HIV/AIDS crisis including the recent Obama administration announcement of the five year public awareness campaign, Act Against AIDS, the survey also finds public support for more spending..

Half of the public thinks that the federal government is spending too little on domestic HIV/AIDS, while just five percent say it spends too much. More than a third (36%) of Americans say they have personally donated money to an HIV/AIDS-related charity, including nearly half (45%) of African Americans, and there is confidence that new efforts in prevention will make a difference.

While down somewhat from 2006, public support for continued or increased government spending on HIV/AIDS is notable considering the current economic recession and a decline in reported visibility of the domestic epidemic. The share saying they have heard, seen, or read “a lot” or “some” about the problem of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in the past year declined from 70 percent in 2004 to 45 percent in 2009, and the share that saw “a lot” was cut in half for not only the general public, but also among African Americans and Latinos.

Despite a polarizing debate in recent years about such issues as abstinence and condoms, six in ten Americans believe that spending more money on HIV prevention in the U.S. will lead to meaningful progress, and about half believe the same about spending on treatment.

Some Signs of Progress, But Misconceptions And Stigma Remain

The survey indicates some signs that HIV/AIDS in the U.S. may carry less stigma than in the past. For instance, there has been a slow and steady increase since the late 1990s in the share of people who say they would be very comfortable with a coworker who has HIV/AIDS (44% now, up from 32% in 1997). However, stigmatizing attitudes towards people with HIV have not gone away; fully half (51%) of the public says they would be uncomfortable having their food prepared by someone who is HIV positive.

Misconceptions may be a factor in stigma, and several remain when it comes to correct information about HIV transmission. One-third (34%) of Americans incorrectly believe or are unsure whether HIV can be transmitted by one of the following actions: sharing a drinking glass (27%), touching a toilet seat (17%), or swimming in a pool with an HIV positive person (14%).

Confusion about HIV transmission may contribute to discomfort around those who are HIV positive. People who harbor misconceptions about transmission are more likely to say they would be uncomfortable working with someone with HIV (43% versus 13% who correctly answered questions about transmission) and more likely to be uncomfortable having their food prepared by an HIV positive person (71% compared to 40%).

A significant share of the public also harbors misconceptions about prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Nearly one in five (18%) do not know there is no cure for AIDS and about one-quarter (27%) believe or are unsure whether former professional basketball player Magic Johnson has been cured of AIDS. Additionally, a quarter (24%) believe or are unsure whether there is a vaccine available to prevent HIV infection. Many of these misconceptions are more common in the African American community, including that Magic Johnson has been cured (37% of African Americans think he has been cured or are unsure), that there is a vaccine available to prevent infection (36%), and that there are drugs available that can cure HIV and AIDS (30%).


Methodology

The survey was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was conducted January 26 through March 8, 2009, among a nationally representative random sample of 2,554 adults ages 18 and older. Telephone interviews conducted by landline (N=1,951) and cell phone (N=603, including 214 who had no landline telephone) were carried out in English and Spanish. The survey includes oversamples of African American and Latino respondents as well as respondents ages 18-29. Results for all groups have been weighted to reflect their actual distribution in the nation. The margin of sampling error for the overall survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points, for whites it is plus or minus 4 percentage points, for African Americans it is plus or minus 5 percentage points, and for Latinos it is plus or minus 6 percentage points. For results based on other subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit private operating foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, dedicated to producing and communicating the best possible information, research and analysis on health issues.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Charlotte National Youth Service Day

Written By Shmekia Dameron of Team Charlotte

Team Charlotte spent the day at Southwest Middle School in Gastonia with the students for National Youth Service Day. The day was great! We started the day off by presenting the entire staff with appreciation cards from AmeriCorps (Team Charlotte) and Communities in Schools, going door to door thanking them for everything they do for the students. We also delivered along either a muffin or crème cheese Danish along with the cards. The staff was very appreciative.

The students had a Fun Day at school on that day where they had a variety of fun things to do outside on the field. We Team Charlotte members set up a table in the auditorium with information about AmeriCorps. After classes were done eating lunch, the teachers brought their students to view our table and we explained to them what it is we do and why. We talked to the students about why serving is so important and they all seemed to agree. We told them about National Youth Service Day, and asked them to try and do something nice for someone in order to give back to the community.

We had a Wheel of Choices game, which had different categories- Contraception, AIDS, & STD’s, Abstinence & Peer Pressure, Teen Pregnancy etc. A few students from each class spun the wheel, read the question aloud, gave their answer and we discussed them. The team had a wonderful time with the students and we all enjoyed going back to middle school for a day!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Repost: Bar Outreach for Team Detroit

Hello all,
As a student at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, I also write a blog for them that covers some aspects of student life. I recently wrote a post about doing bar outreach at a local bar in Ann Arbor, and I wanted to share it with you! Please check it out:
http://umichsph.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/bar-outreach/