By Helene Kirschke-Schwartz, AIDS United AmeriCorps Team New Orleans
Our year of service is coming to a close in the most hectic way possible - but we wouldn't have it any other way. We always knew Team NOLA would go out with a bang! I'll keep this as short and sweet as possible, because honestly I could go on and on about everything we learned (but you all would get sick of me).
National HIV/AIDS Testing Day
Technically, National HIV/AIDS Testing Day was Thursday June 27th - but all around the nation, one day wasn't enough. In New Orleans, we had not one but THREE days of free HIV testing. Once again, we teamed up with Walgreens to offer a more convenient place to test. There were nine testing sites across the city (waaaay more than most cities in the US)- it seemed like all the Walgreens in the city wanted in on this event! Each Americorps member was at a different site over the three days- and the results were amazing. In total, Louie, Rebecca, and Jeremy tested 97 people. NINETY-SEVEN PEOPLE
. That's not including the other testers and other sites- so you can only imagine
how successful this event was. Just wow.
Long-Term Project (The Whole Sha-bang)
I mentioned our LTP in a previous blog post (which I'm sure everyone read, right?) but it's gotten even better! When thinking about what we wanted to work on the rest of the year, we all agreed that linkage to care was an issue we all cared deeply about. Mostly, we wanted there to be a better and more up-to-date resource for linkage to care. So we got to work!
In the beginning we spent a majority of our time interviewing anyone who would talk to us. Providers, case managers, supervisors... people basically got really sick of us. After we had compiled lots on information about what everyone else wanted to see, it was time to start envisioning what we
wanted to see. We decided on building a website. Why a website? Because think of how often we are on our smartphones/ use the internet. It connects us to virtually everything we need. We wanted the website to be mobile-friendly and full of info on providers in the area, prevention tactics, condoms sites, HIV 101...etc. The problem was, none of us were very good with technology. After playing with several ideas, we decided to use a website building template and it worked wonderfully. Check it out for yourself: www.nolahealthlink.com
So after many months of planning and too many coffee shops work dates - the website is complete. It is never finished, however, because we hope it will be continuously updated by the future NOLA Americorps teams. But we are very, very proud of the way it turned out- and very, very excited to see how it can help our community.
It shocks me how fast this year flew by. It was full of challenges and successes, and more than anything- lots of learning. I think our team would agree that this year has changed us in many ways. We earned some valuable skills, formed lifelong relationships, gave countless female condom demonstrations, ate ate ate (what else do you do in NOLA?), fell in love with the city, & gave back to a community we care deeply about. Personally, I wouldn't have wanted to share this year with any other team.
Rebecca and Jeremy get ready to rock climb during a very fun fifth day for the team :)[/caption]
Thanks AIDS United for a productive, eye-opening year! We can't wait to see what's next.
Tuesday, 08 July, 2014