Getting to know our PULSE volunteers: Meet Maura!

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.

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Getting to know our PULSE volunteers: Meet Christine!

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 Christine Rotondo!

1) What drew you to the BLC during your PULSE placement process?

I was drawn to the BLC after attending the PULSE Town Meeting on campus. I enjoyed hearing about the different activities that occur, from the Cyberspace computer lab to sculpting in the art room and Monday night dinners. I enjoyed touring the BLC because everyone, both staff and members, warmly welcomed us PULSE students and were open to any questions that we had. The BLC stood out to me for its overall commitment to fostering a safe community for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Boston area.

2) What is/are your favorite part(s) about volunteering at the BLC?

My favorite part about volunteering at the BLC is definitely working the coatroom because I get to interact with each member as they arrive for lunch. Whether exchanging a quick hello or talking about our plans for the week, it is a gratifying opportunity to individually touch base with each member.

3) What has been one moment that has stood out to you in your time at the BLC and why?

One moment that stood out to me during my time at the BLC was during one Monday night dinner in January. I chose to sit next to a member whom I’d never met before, and I was unsure of what would come out of our conversation. Within minutes, this member and I were sharing stories and realizing that we had a lot more in common than anticipated. This individual turned out to be one of the most kindhearted people I’d get to know and made that dinner unforgettably meaningful to me.

4) Has your experience at the BLC impacted the way you understand HIV/AIDS and/or the people living with it?

Absolutely. As a nursing student at Boston College, I have learned the pathophysiology and clinical manifestations of HIV/AIDS. However, I have come to realize that I could not have fully understood the true complexity of living with the virus if I hadn’t chosen to volunteer at the BLC. Volunteering at the BLC has impacted the way I understand HIV/AIDS because it has given me the opportunity to see how the stigma of HIV/AIDS affects people in my community every day.

5) If you could describe your BLC experience in one word, what would it be and why?

Rewarding. I am so grateful to have been placed at the BLC for my PULSE service requirement. Volunteering at the BLC has been such a worthwhile experience in regards to learning about HIV/AIDs and getting to know such remarkable individuals that I may not have otherwise crossed paths with. The BLC is a truly special place for the members, staff, and volunteers. It is a beacon of hope, joy, and camaraderie, and I am privileged to be a part of it!

Getting to know our PULSE volunteers: Meet Mike!

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 Mike McShane!

1) What drew you to the BLC during your PULSE placement process?

What highly drew me to the BLC was the atmosphere I saw as soon as I stepped in. I noticed that all of the people there were friendly with one another and were relying upon each other for strength to fight through every day. I recognized that the BLC was not just somewhere that provided the services for people and sent them on their way, but rather it is a place that encourages the members to continue to grow throughout their entire life.

2) What is/are your favorite part(s) about volunteering at the BLC?

My favorite part about volunteering at the BLC is simply sitting down and speaking with all of the different amazing members. I constantly hear stories about perseverance and success that give me hope to truly make a difference in my lifetime. If people are able to fight through such a tough disease mostly by being in community with others, then it makes me believe that being there for others is the best way to provide support and show love.

3) What has been one moment that has stood out to you in your time at the BLC and why?

One moment that has stood out to me is speaking with a particular member about his journey that brought him to the U.S. and the BLC and his hopes for the future. The intensity with which he spoke was amazing and truly inspiring. It is a moment that I hold dear to me and I know that I will never forget.

4) Has your experience at the BLC impacted the way you understand HIV/AIDS and/or the people living with it?

Yes. Coming in, I knew nothing about HIV/AIDS or the people living with this disease. There were stereotypes and stigmas that I heard, but because of my time at the BLC, these stereotypes have been shattered. I know that many people do not understand what it means to be living with this disease, nor do they know that the only effect it has on who a person is, is that it makes them stronger. I have never experienced a stronger or more resilient community than the people I interact with at the BLC.

5) If you could describe your BLC experience in one word, what would it be and why?

Strength. I feel that everyone at BLC embodies some sort of supernatural strength that allows them to not only continue on with their lives, but to flourish. The BLC members have shown me that in the face of suffering and anguish, one can truly thrive if they have strength.

Getting to know our PULSE volunteers: Meet Ariana!

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 Ariana Paradise!

1) What drew you to the BLC during your PULSE placement process?

I was initially drawn to the BLC because I wanted to volunteer at an agency that would allow me to serve people older than myself. In the past, I had typically done a lot of service involving children and I wanted to experience something new. The BLC was able to give me the experience I was looking for. Another reason I was drawn to the BLC was because the staff was very welcoming and enthusiastic to have me there. This made me feel like I was wanted, which a lot of the other PULSE agencies failed to do. Additionally, the BLC had a very open environment that would allow me to serve others in the most effective ways possible, as well as allow myself to grow and experience new things.

2) What is/are your favorite part(s) about volunteering at the BLC?

My favorite part about serving at the BLC is getting to enjoy lunches and dinners with the BLC members and staff. I love being a part of this because it gives me the opportunity to get to know a lot of the members more personally because I get to sit down and have a meal with them.

3) What has been one moment that has stood out to you in your time at the BLC and why?

A moment that has stood out to me was when I was in charge of dinner door duty last semester. Every week when I would do this job, it would make me feel happy when the members gradually started to recognize me and remember my name. These brief interactions eventually developed into stronger relationships with the members where they would feel comfortable enough to share with me things about their jobs or home-life away from the BLC. It made me happy that the members wanted to share these kinds of things with me, and that they would be excited to see me every week at the door! My interactions and relationships with the members make me feel like I am important to the BLC when I come to serve every week.

4) Has your experience at the BLC impacted the way you understand HIV/AIDS and/or the people living with it?

Before coming to the BLC I had no knowledge of HIV/AIDS. My experience at the BLC has taught me everything I know about HIV/AIDS relating to how it is transmitted, treated, and how one lives with HIV/AIDS. My favorite experiences are when members decide to open up to me by sharing how they became HIV-positive, and by talking about the stigma they experience in their lives because of their HIV status.

5) If you could describe your BLC experience in one word, what would it be and why?

Influential–I would use this word to describe my BLC experience because it has influenced me to change how I view others different from myself, as well as how I view the world around me. I learned not to be so quick to judge others because you never know what they are experiencing/facing in their lives that makes them the way they are. With this said, it’s important to not be judgmental, but instead be understanding and open to the idea that people’s experiences shape who they are and can teach us many things about why people act certain ways and how they effect the world we are living in. The differences between the BLC members and myself are what changed how I act towards others in the world because of my new open mindset towards others.

Getting to know our PULSE volunteers: Meet Audrey!

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 Audrey Fleming!

1) What drew you to the BLC during your PULSE placement process?

I was very interested in finding a PULSE placement related to healthcare because it is a field I am extremely interested in and want to be a part of post college. After taking a tour at the BLC, I knew that it would be a perfect fit for me because of the community-like environment and cheerfulness of the members. In addition to the members, all of the staff seemed very open and excited to have PULSE students come in and help for the year. The BLC is a community where I have constantly been learning and forming meaningful relationships since the first day I began volunteering in September.

2) What is/are your favorite part(s) about volunteering at the BLC?

My favorite part of my day at the BLC is eating lunch at 12pm with all of the members and staff in the cafeteria. When the members come in to eat, everyone is happy, friendly, and always wants to know how you are doing and what you have been up to. The staff often sits and eats among the members and even the volunteers have fun serving food. The cafeteria is an amazing environment to relax, forget about your daily troubles, and enjoy a delicious meal with friends.

3) What has been one moment that has stood out to you in your time at the BLC and why?

One of my most memorable experiences from my time at the BLC was the Gratitude Dinner, which representatives from all of the Victory Programs attended at a restaurant in Dorchester. I will remember this event for a very long time because I experienced first-hand the positive effects that the Boston Living Center and the other Victory Programs have had on so many lives. During their speeches, many past and current members from the BLC said that this center saved them and they do not know where they would be without the love and support from their fellow members. These speeches stuck with me and make me so grateful that I am volunteering at a place that is working to make real change in the lives of those associated with it, and to know that I have even a miniscule part in these changes is an honor.

4) Has your experience at the BLC impacted the way you understand HIV/AIDS and/or the people living with it?

My experience at the BLC has taught me so much more than just the basic facts about HIV/AIDS. By attending workshops and having conversations with members, I have learned about HIV/AIDS stigma and how much it affects many people with the virus, which I was not aware of before my volunteering began. I see how many members here at the BLC not only have to deal with the effects of the virus but also other parts of their lives that are affected, such as work and housing.

5) If you could describe your BLC experience in one word, what would it be and why?

Effervescent. Effervescent is defined as vivacious and enthusiastic. I would consider the staff and members to give off effervescence and even the BLC building itself. Everyone is always happy and lively at the Boston Living Center every single day. The cafeteria is always active with conversation and laughter, which can be heard even from the lobby below. This is a center for people to gather and celebrate life, to take comfort in knowing they have such a large support system, and I feel recharged each time that I come in to volunteer.