Here at the BLC, we are extremely lucky to be one of the sites for Boston College’s PULSE program for service learning. We have had the great opportunity of having 5 amazing undergrad students volunteering with us since September 2014, and as their time with us is soon coming to an end, we wanted to hear a little bit about what their BLC experiences have been like. Today we’d like to introduce Maura O’Neill!
1) What drew you to the BLC during your PULSE placement process?
Because I was in PULSE last year and am now a member of the student council for the program, I knew a bit about each of the 57 options for placement. What I was looking for most was a community and an opportunity to learn. On my tour of the BLC, I was immediately welcomed. I met staff and members who seemed willing to share their experiences to help me better understand how crucial the BLC is to Boston. I also recognized an opportunity for advocacy as I began to learn more.
2) What is/are your favorite part(s) about volunteering at the BLC?
I love the freedom I have to engage with both members and staff. Whether I get into a deep conversation or become involved in Craigslist house hunting, I’m able to continue rather than being forced to stick to a schedule, though I do like the structure that the schedule provides us. I feel that I am able to see what the job is like for staff when I have a chance to chat, shadow, or help them in their duties. And, of course, I really enjoy dinners!
3) What has been one moment that has stood out to you in your time at the BLC and why?
Though I’ve had many meaningful experiences at the BLC, one of the ones that sticks out most is the World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil. I remember feeling so inspired, not only by the amount of people who came to support it, but also by the singing, the remembrance of friends and family members, and the engagement of those who walked by. I felt so proud to be surrounded by so much strength and love.
4) Has your experience at the BLC impacted the way you understand HIV/AIDS and/or the people living with it?
I have learned so much, especially about the stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV face. I even ended up writing an in-depth research paper on this topic. This prompted discussion with staff and allowed me to understand HIV/AIDS in a broader social context. Being at the BLC every week has impacted my understanding of individual members’ experiences.
5) If you could describe your BLC experience in one word, what would it be and why?
My BLC experience in one word is motivating. I feel motivated by the resilience and dedication I have witnessed in staff, members, guests, and volunteers. And I feel called to advocate in any way I can.