All of us have “transition” moments, events or periods in our individual lives when a change began or occurred that altered our journey. Some are recognized and easily remembered and others merely fade into memory. Ten years ago today, July 19, 2011, such an occasion happened for me.
Just before receiving my undergraduate degree, I became an HIV/AIDS prevention education instructor for my local chapter of the American Red Cross. I volunteered for this because of the devastation effect this disease had on three distinct communities that I was a part of: Deaf, same gender loving (gay) and the naturist/nudist following. I felt the underlying need to inform others of the necessary preventions to change the situation. This initiated a dedication to the Red Cross from that moment until ten years ago today.
I progressed from a chapter instructor involved with my communities to the next level as an instructor-trainer with the Red Cross – I became the person who taught others how to conduct educational sessions. In my local chapter, I eventually became the chapter’s HIV/AIDS prevention education chairman. During this time, my instructor-trainer category expanded into three different categories: basics (general population), African-American, and into the Workplace curriculum. All of these positions were voluntary with no financial compensation nor expectation.
Outside of my local chapter, I was encouraged to join a Washington, D.C., metropolitan task force of Red Cross chapters created to design and implement a fundamental peer education curriculum focusing on teenage educators. For almost three years we engaged in the job of building a group that would perform educational outreach to their own age group on prevention skills and techniques to their peers in reducing risks of HIV infection.
My longevity with the local and national American Red Cross HIV/AIDS prevention education movement ended on this date a decade ago. My co-instructor and I met to set-up for our last class together – which lasted from July 25 – July 29, 2011, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. After renewing our identifications for the National Capitol Area chapter we unloaded our equipment and textbooks and organized the materials in the order needed. After a morning of work, we concluded our togetherness with a nice quiet lunch.
Over the course of our social meal, we both engaged in the acknowledgement that this would be the very last class that we would teach together for the national faculty. The American Red Cross no longer received government funds to continue to the HIV/AIDS education prevention curriculum and the national effort was rapidly disappearing. Supplies were no longer provided and curriculum development had ceased.
As our conversation progressed, we recalled many instances from our past eleven years of co-teaching classes where humor and silliness invaded our shared classroom – both from the students and ourselves! Our teamwork had created a very productive environment for not only those we taught but for us, as well!
After a total of almost two decades of time with the American Red Cross HIV awareness and prevention efforts, my voluntary “secondary” career drew to a close. It felt good to know that I had made a difference in the lives of others. A reward that I continue to cherish even today.
Roger Poladopoulos/ReNude Pride
Author’s Note: The next post entry here is planned for Friday, July 23, 2021 and the proposed topic is: “E. Lynn Harris, Author!”