A trip through Cyberspace- Andrew Friedman

Andrew Friedman- Emerson College

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.

Thank you,  Andrew Friedman Emerson College

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Program Preview: Tracy talks Beaded Jewelry

By Joss Greene, BLC Intern

This past week I sat down with Tracy to talk about her involvement with the beaded jewelry class offered Tuesdays at 1pm at the BLC.  This class is open 6 members, and you’d better sign up at the front desk in advance if you want to get in on the highly popular program!  Tracy has been attending the class for one year and calls it one of her favorite aspects of the center.

J:  You’ve made this class a key part of your weekly schedule and it’s obviously important to you.  Why did you start coming and why do you keep coming back?

T: I look at it as therapy, stress and harm-reduction therapy.  This is what helped me to come back out my door, what I needed for motivation to want to leave my house.  I made a commitment to be here… to myself and to the people here.

J:  What is it about the class that draws you in?

T:  I got a lot of support in this class.  When people found out about what happened to me, people were very loving, especially the instructor.  If you don’t come to a class, the next time she sees you, she gives you crap, like “Where you been?”  It’s more than she gives you a hard time, you know she cares.  It’s very important when you feel like your independence has been stolen.  Not only did I feel completely disrespected, but I felt my self worth was taken… When I come here, I know I’m supported no matter what I’m doing.  There’s always someone to talk to and tell me I’m a good person.

J:  The instructor sounds great.  How does her presence affect the class environment?

T:  She’s absolutely fabulous.  If we didn’t have her I probably wouldn’t keep coming back.

J:  Instructors can definitely set the tone for a class.  Once you’re here, what is it like to create art?

T:  It’s discovering my own unique talent that I never knew I had.  My mother’s my muse.  Pretty much any piece I create has my mother’s influence in it.  I draw a lot out of our heritage and put it in my creation…  I never have a plan for what I’m gonna make.  It’s the energy from the stones that draws me to them.  That’s the exciting part too, because I never know what’s going to be what.

J:  Not everyone gets a chance to attend this class or any of our art classes.  If someone wanted to know what you get from the class and why it’s important to you to have it offered, what would you say?

T:  I feel like I’m a part of something special.  It’s a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride.  The first piece I made was really ugly.  If it wasn’t for one of the other members in this class encouraging me, I probably wouldn’t have come back.  Someone else saw the specialness in it that I didn’t see.  That was important… Family support is hard to come by.  This is my second family.

Arts Abound at the BLC

[a reprint from our print newsletter Lifetimes, which you can check out on our website]

We often talk of the active artists’ community here at the BLC. It’s a vibrant and popular component of what makes the BLC so unique. Member artists contribute works to our annual Art of Living Calendar; they decorate the BLC with their creations and share their skills with others. The latter is very much the case with Juan Mendez, a member since 1996. Juan is a Peer Advocate and local artist who helps coordinate art classes here at the BLC. “A lot of people here have a lot of talent,” says Juan. Classes include painting, beaded jewelry and sometimes clay pottery and mask making, and are all geared at bringing out the artist in all of us.
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