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

    '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).