Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A GREAT conference I attended recently

Hi, I'm Bo Keppel, an AmeriCorps National AIDS Fund member in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In December I received a full scholarship to attend the National Rural Health Association's annual Rural Minority and Multicultural Health Confernce in Albuquerque. It was a fantastic conference and I urge you to apply for a scholarship next year when it will be held in Memphis, TN. There were many excellent presentations and LOTS of great information and goodies to share with clients.

A presentation of particular interest was the one on rural women and HIV. Here's the summary I wrote for my AmeriCorps and health department bosses, just to whet your appetities:

HIV/AIDS Prevention for Women Living in the Rural South, Mary Bowers, MSW, DOHHS, Office on Women’s Health Public Health Advisor

Women represent a growing number of individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the US, and HIV/AIDS is increasingly affecting women, adolescents, and minorities in rural and Southern areas of the country. These facts were made concrete through a presentation of United States maps representing population dispersal, racial dispersal, poverty, unemployment, hospitals, rural health clinics, and much other data. The presenter listed the disparities of sexism and racism, oppression, stigma, poverty, under and unemployment, crime and incarceration, limited resources and geographic isolation as barriers to preventing HIV infection among rural women of color. We must also take into consideration the gender-based, cultural, socio-economic, psycho-social, geographic and biological risk differentials for women, as well as the risk violence against women adds.

What can we in prevention do? We must reach women where they are, in workplaces, hair salons, bars, daycare centers, schools, public assistance offices, church, home. We must provide woman-centered services through a gender-centered approach by communicating in the standard community language which is non-condescending and non-judgmental; by building women’s self-esteem and self-determination. We must push for the development of microbicides and other female-controlled barriers. As part of prevention we must also work to see women receive routine wellness checks which include risk assessment and counseling, STD testing and reproductive health check-ups.

This complete and relevant presentation was offered in PowerPoint, a copy of which I have received from the presenter. If you are an AmeriCorps National AIDS Fund member working with rural women and would like a copy, please email me at and I'll send it to you

If you'd like info on next year's conference or the National Rural Health Association, go to their website at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Team Charlotte went above and beyond the call of duty helping out with two full day testing events for NBAAD. HIV/AIDS rates are high among the African American community, so our team tried to test as many people as we could. We first teamed up with the Mecklenburg Health Department's testing event at Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black University located in the heart of Charlotte. The day included testing 81 students and doing outreach around the campus. We even managed to get our feet on the evening news (they were trying to keep things confidential)! The following weekend the team traveled to Rock Hill, SC, to give Catawba Care Coalition a helping hand in their testing event with Clinton Jr. College, another historically black school. Although we had high hopes in continuing to test the same number of people as last year, the day was still successful because we managed to test 18 individuals. The team was in great spirits and had high energy for both events and we might have even recruited some new members for next year!

Monday, February 9, 2009

MLK Jr. National Day of Service, Team Chicago

For Martin Luther King Day, Team Chicago assisted with a Chicago Cares day of service event that began at the United Center. Although I have to admit that the mood among our team members at first was far from jubilant due to the cold and early morning start time, the positive atmosphere that soon flooded the United Center as the day got rolling definitely lifted our spirits. As “Roadies”, we were assigned to checking in volunteers, answering their questions and helping them find their buses, which would be heading out later that morning to various sites around Chicago. It was definitely a hectic morning trying to keep up with the thousands of people who came to the United Center that day, but we found that most people were smiling and happy to be there, and we were happy to do what we could to assist them. It was certainly inspiring to see so many people dedicating their time and energy that day to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and that spirit of service permeated our team experience. I think that we all felt that there is something special about being in Chicago during this point in the history of our country, for although there are many hardships there is also great opportunity to be of service to our communities.

Bronwen White
Team Chicago

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Together We Can" Team Charlotte's MLK Day of Service!!

Team Charlotte worked with Hyaets Inc. to have a successful MLK Day celebration. Hyaets is a small non profit organization based in the Enderly Park Community on the west side of Charlotte. This is an impoverished community, where the children deal with a struggle of violence and unity on a daily basis. The team members of Hyaets Inc. work to provide a safe place for the children of the neighborhood and to be good neighbors in the biblical terms.
For our day of service we really reached inside of ourselves to come up with a day focused on the great works of Dr. King. The day, entitled “Together we can”, was focused on two of King’s most popular teaching themes, unity and nonviolence. We had children from Enderly Park and from a local church’s youth group as our audience for the day, aged 3-18. We began at noon with a quick lunch prepared by none other than the lovely ladies of Team Charlotte and a few volunteers. The youth of the Hyaets community and of Park Road Baptist Church came together to learn more about the life and legacy of Dr. King. We began with a speech outlining the life of Dr. King. Next we moved to a game with quotes by King. This gave all participants the opportunity to really think about the things Kings said and how they are still relevant to all of our lives today. Our next activity was a puzzle activity that was all about unity and working together, the students LOVED it and they really understood the point of the activity.
In addition to all of that fun, we left the warmth of the building to brave the cold and be Guerrilla Gardeners in the Elderly Park community. We roamed the streets of the neighborhood with our shovels planting pansies at abandoned houses and lots also for some friendly neighbors who enjoyed our company. This was a huge success, the children had a wonderful time, and the whole team enjoyed themselves as well; there was even a student who had such a good time that she believed she had found her calling to be a gardener.
As we wrapped up our day we listened to the entire I have a Dream speech as we watched a slide about the Civil Rights Movement, with a concentration on the nonviolent protest that King lead. After viewing the slide, it was time to reflect, the floor was open for discussion about what we had seen and heard during the day. In the slide there was a photo of President Obama and during the discussion one of the students said “Tomorrow part of Martin Luther King’s dream is going to come true when Barack Obama becomes President”. Although this was a simple statement you could tell that many of them hadn’t made that connection before that moment. It was so wonderful!
We all enjoyed ourselves and each of us made a special connection with at least one child! My favorite part of the day was seeing each of my teammates just jump right in and give there all to each child and activity! It took a lot out of us but we really worked as a team and the day was a big success. Having Maggie there to share the day with us made it that much better. The whole experience made a lasting impression on Team Charlotte as a whole and I’m sure we touch a few kids’ lives.

Solita Jefferies
Team Charlotte

Monday, February 2, 2009

MLK Day of Service-Team Indy

Team Indy’s MLK Day of Service was wonderful. We started out with a business-oriented meeting about our long-term project in the morning and served during the afternoon. For me, it was truly a rewarding afternoon. I was thrilled to return to my alma mater, the place that truly taught me about life, becoming an adult, and giving back to the community.
Our service hours consisted of an HIV 101/ HIV panel discussion for a group of girls in a medical magnet program here in Indianapolis. In my everyday work, this is all I do. I talk to youth about HIV, STDs, and safe sex. But, what made the day special was having my entire team beside me in concert, passionately talking to these eight young ladies about HIV and the importance of our work during this service year. Aside from that, it was refreshing to watch my team members take command of their portion of the discussion and deliver it effortlessly.
When we were finished with our presentation, we opened the floor for questions. The ladies were not shy at all. They asked intelligent, blunt questions until they had no more. As time wound down, we passed out HIV and STD pamphlets that covered the bases of transmission and how to protect yourself from infection as well as free testing cards.
The next day, when I read my email, there was one from my high school teacher that allowed us to give our presentation during her class. It read, “Hey there Jamie! It was so special to have you back in class (smile). Thanks for bringing the calvary, the students loved it. Love you lots.”
After I was done reading it, I knew we had accomplished what I had envisioned for the day.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!!!!

This year for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Team Tulsa marched in the parade with my host site, HOPE Testing Clinic. We all wore red for HIV/AIDS awareness. During the parade, we handed out lollipops with information about HIV testing for Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day that is coming up on February 7, along with other clinic and testing information. We also handed out information about the Oklahoma HIV/STD Hotline that is answered during the day at HOPE. We carried my clinic's banner that encourages people to get tested (which I did trip over while carrying!). This year's parade was the biggest in Tulsa's history. Not only were people celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., but President Obama's picture was on many of the floats as well. This extra significance made the parade all that more meaningful for myself, and the others involved. All the local television stations were there, and I had a few people tell me they saw us on tv. It was just an awesome feeling being involved in the biggest MLK parade ever in Tulsa, the day before President Obama's first day in office all while getting the word about about HIV testing in Tulsa.

Samantha Young
Team Tulsa

Team DC - MLK Jr. National Day of Service

Team DC spent our MLK Jr. National Day of Service volunteering at the DC Health Expo held at the huge convention center in downtown DC. While most of our agencies had their own booths at the event, we volunteered our time to the National Kidney Foundation. They had a large segment portioned off for their work which was identifying a person's BMI, taking blood pressure, filling out a questionnaire to assess risk for kidney disease, and offering people a chance to speak with the eight volunteer doctors on hand.

We were assigned to assist people in making their way around to the various centers. We provided answers to people in line, assisted in filling out the questionnaire, and took them to the consultations with the doctors. A few of us had the opportunity to chat with people while they waited in line for their consultations. Often times, the clients would remark on how nice it was for the doctors to offer their time and how happy they were to be able to see a doctor as they didn't have health insurance. A lot of people took their kids with them to talk to the doctor about problems that were not kidney related.

This service day turned out to be really nice as we got to meet several interesting people who were also volunteers, spend time working in the larger community (which we often forget about as we our the bubble of our own agencies), and walk around and visit other booths at the Expo (some definitely walked away with good loot). It was also really good to see medical professionals volunteering their time and being friendly and courteous to the clients they saw at the NKF booth and in the whole convention center. Finally, it's just always nice to spend an extra day and connect with our team members and we are all so busy during the week! These extra events allow us to learn about different corners of DC as a team that we might possibly not have a chance to experience.

The day showed us that there is a very real need in the DC community for proper healthcare. Over 1000 people went through the National Kidney Foundation booth and were provided with potentially life-saving information so the event was really powerful. Although non-profits, foundations, and community-based agencies can give people incredibly important knowledge and tools, it is obvious that real social change will only come through collective action at all societal levels.

Team Detroit MLK Day

MLK Day 2009 for Team Detroit was a day of collaboration with another AmeriCorps group, City Year Detroit. City Year always puts on a big event for MLK Day and we decided to join them in their day of service after meeting them at an AmeriCorps Teams in Michigan Conference. Our team members gathered early in the morning in downtown Detroit for a kick off rally for the day of service. City Year recruited all kinds of folks to volunteer for a day of service in commemoration of Dr. King. They were not all necessarily students who had the day off, but rather individuals who were teachers, businessman, young and old who wanted to come together for a day of service and action in the Detroit community.

After the rally, we were stationed at the Holistic Community Development Center with other City Year members. The Holistic Center is a place for the members of the community to get involved with everything from prayer to dancing to educational as well as community engagement projects. The building was quite old and needed a bit of cleaning and organizing. Half of the group worked on cleaning and organizing a closet that had been neglected for several years and needed much TLC. The other half of the group worked on cleaning up a kitchen in preparation for another AmeriCorps team who was scheduled to come in and paint the room. Both groups worked hard at sorting, cleaning, dusting, mopping and making the Holistic Center spic and span. We all worked up a healthy sweat and met some new friends during the day. Overall, cleaning up the Holistic Center went very well and the people there were very, very thankful for all the help we provided that day. MLK 2009 was a great way to meet other AmeriCorps members and to improve our Detroit community!