BY: MARIA SAUER
Eager to embark on our journey to New York, I, along with 10 other SNC students (Vanessa Raymond ‘15, Kea Schmuhl ‘15, Janette Tulachka ‘15, Jessi Wightman ‘15, Ashley Desotell ‘16, Rose GildersonDuwe ‘17, Melissa Stel ‘17, Leah Dix ‘18, Amanda Merckx ‘18 and Gabby Mueller ‘18), packed our bags and flew off to the Big Apple where we took part in an alternative break service program. St. Norbert College’s TRIPS (Turning Responsibility into Powerful Service) Program allows students the opportunity to reflect their values and beliefs through service. Our community partner, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), is the world’s first provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. Not only does this nonprofit base itself on services to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift all lives affected, but they also lead the way in their approach and implementation. As the HIV/AIDS 2015 TRIPS group, we were able to live and learn through service January 16th 24th.
Serving at GMHC throughout the week, we grew to understand their mission in a richer way. As a leading provider of HIV/AIDS services, GMHC works to empower a healthy life for all. This involves a holistic approach in providing care to all aspects of life. The first day at GMHC, our group was given an orientation covering the history of the nonprofit and the services they provide. We were in awe to then see these words be brought into action. Working in the cafeteria serving nutritious lunches to GMHC clients, we interacted with the clients as well as the staff. I couldn’t help but wonder what brought each person to GMHC doing the work that they do so well. Some are volunteers while others are staff. Regardless of his or her position, every person that we came into contact with radiated a passion driven by the purpose in his or her work. Their respective roles at GMHC paint a breathtaking image. Painted with brushes of compassion and strokes of solidarity, people each day continue to paint on top of the canvas. A canvas stretched from suffering in the 1980’s is now incorporating different techniques to bring human flourishing to life.
Our group was able to hold the paintbrush as we took part in the life-giving work. Part of our service involved serving nutritious lunches in the cafeteria to GMHC clients. We will hold close to us the interactions we had and the connections we made. What we won’t forget is the way we grew. For some, a flame was ignited as we began to understand the issue of HIV/AIDS and ways to meet the needs of those who are HIV positive more. For others, our idea of service developed throughout the week. As for myself, I grew to understand more of the need for justice, justice that encompasses the human dignity of all. Our week of service and learning has undoubtedly challenged my beliefs while also allowing me to discover passions within myself. Having taken part in GMHC’s mission to fight AIDS and love life, our group grew to understand each other, the AIDS epidemic and how our abilities can meet the needs of our neighbors.