Sunday, December 12, 2010
Season of Giving: The Damien Center
In the month of December, I'm going to feature various groups that help those in need (that means I'm posting twice a day!!). I'm not always doing fundraising for them- just bringing attention to groups that I think do important work or may need help. Perhaps you will feel the urge to connect to that group or find something similar in your area that you can volunteer your time and talents. Perhaps you will want to make a donation. Perhaps you will just feel warm and fuzzy knowing that good is being done in the world. See all posts for the Season of Giving ***** The Damien Center From the website: The mission of The Damien Center is to lead the fight to prevent the spread of HIV and to empower persons in Central Indiana affected by HIV/AIDS to move forward each day with dignity. The Damien Center offers vital supportive services to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS so they may live abundant and productive lives. We also provide comprehensive HIV prevention services, including HIV testing, prevention counseling, education, and advocacy. We believe passionately in the dignity and worth of every person who seeks our services. We strive to be a safe and welcoming place so that no barriers separate people from the services they need to prolong and enhance their lives. The Damien Center is a nonprofit organization that serves the population in the Indianapolis area who are HIV/AIDS positive. The Damien Center also provides education, prevention, and testing services. Some of the services that The Damien Center provides includes: assistance with health insurance, finding housing, dealing with medications, finding transportation, a food pantry and free haircuts, legal assistance, and social events. Why is the work of The Damien Center important? Because AIDS is still killing people. Because there is still a lot of misinformation in the world about HIV/AIDS. Because prevention is still key. Because those who are living with HIV/AIDS aren't treated fairly and navigating the system with this label often means needing an advocate to help you through it. One of the faces of HIV/AIDS that stayed with me in my adolescence was that of Ryan White. Ryan and his mom lived in Kokomo, IN- located about an hour north of Indianapolis. When Ryan contracted HIV, he was shunned by his community and the ignorance of the people there led to him being kicked out of his school. There was a great legal battle and Ryan did attend school there- until his family's safety was threatened. They moved to Cicero, IN- about 30 minutes north of Indianapolis- and he attended Hamilton Heights High School. Ryan was accepted at Hamilton heights by students and staff. Ryan passed away months before his high school graduation. When I met Jeff and we were getting to know each other, the subject of Ryan White came up. Ryan's story had impacted me deeply in school and I was... awed... to know that Jeff had graduated from Hamilton Heights. Jeff had graduated prior to Ryan attending there but he knew kids who were friends with Ryan. One afternoon, Jeff took me on a surprise road trip up to Cicero and took me to Ryan's gravesite. I was deeply moved to be at that place and also deeply touched that Jeff understood how much it meant to me. I think the reason that Ryan White and The Damien Center are so important to me is because HIV/AIDS is a prime example of how ignorance fuels hate and fear. Ignorance is my greatest enemy in so many ways. Once we have knowledge and can make informed decisions, we often realize the error of our fear-driven responses. There is, most likely, an organization similar to The Damien Center in your area. If you are looking to help fight ignorance and encourage the fair and respectful treatment of all people, I encourage you to visit The Damien Center's website, maybe make a donation, or support your own local organization.