I’ve been working in the kitchen one or two days a week, helping to prepare and serve food to the members. I’ve also been working with the wonderful Lisa, our volunteer coordinator, doing tasks for her that she needs help with.
You are an intern from LesleyUniversity, why do you think Lesley supports Service Learning?
Lesley starts their internships earlier than most schools, so I am only in my sophomore year. It’s important to get students out into the field as soon as possible to gain experience that will help them to obtain jobs in the future. Service Learning is important because students are able to serve a community or population and learn so much about it at the same time. I am personally very involved in the community service program at Lesley, so I am very grateful that I was able to do an internship that also serves a population in need.
What are you studying at Lesley and how has your time here prepared you for post graduation?
I am studying Holistic Psychology with a Sociology minor. In the Sociology aspect, my time at the BLC has exposed me to a population that I never would have imagined working with! It has broadened my interests and shown me that there are so many opportunities for after I graduate. In respect to Holistic Psychology, I have realized that the holistic therapies can work virtually anywhere and I will have so many opportunities in the future. Being here at the BLC has taught me to be open to everyone, as well as reiterated the fact that there is so much to learn about everyone you meet.
You have an interest in holistic therapies, based on your experience here how do you think they help the chronically ill?
Holistic therapy is so important to healthy living, especially here at the BLC. Holistic therapies look at everything as a whole, which includes mind, body, spirit and environment. All of these aspects are so important, because the chronically-ill not only need to take care of their body, but their environment plays a huge role as well. Specifically here, the BLC provides a community and a healthy, positive environment and is important for the support of all the members.
Our membership seems to really enjoy your company here- how do you feel as a volunteer about your interactions with our members?
I love being at the BLC so much! I leave here every day feeling so happy and great, and that’s a feeling that I can’t get anywhere else. I am so glad that I get to brighten days just by smiling and having little conversations with the members. The members are starting to recognize me now, and that is another awesome feeling. I’m glad that I can be here to help J
Has your perception of who we help changed over the few months you’ve been here?
I was very skeptical at first, coming here and not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I didn’t really have any assumptions about the population; I really just had no clue what to expect. I have learned to be open and accepting of everyone, because every member has a story to be told.
Is there anything else you’d want people to know about the BLC?
The BLC is really a beautiful organization that helps the HIV+ community in more ways than I can ever explain. It is a wonderful place for people to come together and just be people and hang out with others who are just like them. I know that the BLC has changed so many lives, and I know that it can only excel from here on out. I am so grateful that I have been a part of the BLC for the past few months and that I have been welcomed with open arms. I will definitely be back to volunteer in the future, there’s absolutely no way that I can ever leave!
The BLC would like to offer our most grateful appreciation to Theresa who has volunteered her time with us all semester long and contributed in so many ways to our community.
The Boston Living Center takes living very seriously. It could be a member lunch, painting class, yoga, or a massage, theBostonLivingCenterworks to make sure that you know how to live your life. Every day this center enables its’ members and allows them to reach their full potential: giving them skills, a sense of community, resources and most importantly hope. A hope that reminds the members of this center that living with HIV/AIDS is not the death sentence that it used to be; that people can live their lives to the fullest regardless of their status and their socioeconomic level. That is what the Boston Living Center does. It gives people a chance to live.
From the moment I walked into the doors of theBoston Living Center I was greeted with respect and kindness. It didn’t matter to anyone if I was a member or a volunteer but only that I was there to make a difference. I was to only stay five weeks, as part of a service learning project at Emerson College, but I quickly found that a place like this you could volunteer for a lifetime.
I was set up in the computer lab, where I was to help members in need of basic Microsoft Office skills or just any problems on the computer. I was nervous, quiet, and wondered if I was going to be receptive in my mission to help the members of this community. Would they merely view me as another volunteer just doing this because I was assigned? Would they not take me seriously because I didn’t have HIV? These questions pounded through my brain as I wandered down the hall on my way to towards Cyberspace. In about three seconds of being in that room, those thoughts were out of my head. Everyone wanted to talk, everyone wanted some help and everybody was nicer than I could ever believe. It didn’t even matter to people that I didn’t have HIV. In fact I forgot I was even in a place that helped people with HIV!
As I write this on my final day of the project I am filled with a sense of connection that I had never anticipated. Since day one I have been accepted into the Cyberspace community and it is a community that I will dearly miss. The laughter of people watching YouTube, the constant writing and re-writing from people working on letters and papers and the warm handshake and great conversation of Stuart, the overseer of the whole operation.
The Boston Living Center has enthralled me, challenged me, taught me and most of all inspired me. It reminded me how important it was to take full advantage of the simple fact that we are here breathing on this Earth together. That regardless of HIV status or socioeconomic class we all are connected and reliant on one another and it is our mission to help each other. That is the most important lesson of all and it is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
When I was first assigned a service-learning project for my Interpersonal Communications class, I was skeptical. When was this going to fit in to my schedule? Wouldn’t it require energy that I should have been spending on organizations or my other classes? Truth is, I was being incredibly narrow minded. I failed to see the ways in which this could open my mind, expand my horizons and push me into the very thing I thought I feared: something new. This all changed, however, during my first visit to the Boston Living Center.
The instant you enter the BLC, you can’t help but feel wanted. You can’t help but notice how friendly everyone (and I mean everyone) truly is, and how infectious their hospitality is. I was greeted with nothing but openness and positivity, everyone was happy to see me.
Walking into Juan’s Free Expression class, held on Fridays, was like leaving my world for a little while. I wasn’t being consumed by my own thoughts any longer. I didn’t think about how busy or stressed or tired I was. Point is, I forgot about me in general. Abby, the busy college student (admittedly blessed with financial and physical comfort) was pushed to the very back of my mind. My “problems” weren’t as important. My attention was focused on these fascinating new people, who were enduring pain I couldn’t relate to. These individuals, coming from all walks of life, came together here; working side by side to better themselves and their well beings.
Admittedly, I was nervous when beginning the project. I was rather unfamiliar with the psychological and physical afflictions associated with HIV/AIDS, and this topic was one I rarely discussed or encountered in daily life. My greatest fear was to appear ignorant or ill informed, and so I did my research. However, the amount of friendly and positive disclosure the member’s shared- about their personal lives, their health and their happiness made me realize just how open everyone was. They were quick to offer advice, ideas and support when a fellow member needed it most.
I entered my service-learning project completely blind to the effect it would have on me as a person. I didn’t realize that I would walk home after each class, thinking about the lives of the new people I’d met, thinking about their friendly dispositions and mostly; thinking about their strength.
This opportunity gave me something I will never forget or take for granted again: a new perspective. The Boston Living Center, essentially, gave me a great deal of hope. I gained a few new heroes in my cohorts, and saw, for the first time in my life, a group of diverse people joining forces and truly connecting. They shared triumphs and encouraged one another through setbacks. I won’t ever forget the Boston Living Center for exposing me to wonderful, real people, with solid determination to reach their full potentials and live lives they truly loved.