I’m quite certain that everyone agrees that we live in a very sexual world, and no matter your beliefs or your grass roots, we’re all at risk of the unknowns. This next week I will be doing two presentations in front of an audience of students where it’s been difficult to give out condoms, and it’s not the students or the teachers that are at fault. I’m downright nervous as there is a part of me that is still shameful of my own past. I’m not in denial when it comes to having had lack of wisdom, as I felt dispensable with respect to my goals and dreams.
Update November 15. Today shed new light on why I continue to share my story publicly, as I do at times get a little overwhelmed with asking myself why? Does the average person really care that I obviously made unwise decisions at some point in my life? I’m aware of them now of course, and I’ve never laid blame on anyone at anytime, nor do I blame lack of education in my grade school years, as again I state, HIV did not exist at that time so there was no need for it to be part of the curriculum.
Two of the questions I was asked by students.....
“Not to be disrespectful” this young gentleman says “but why did you survive when you were so sick in the hospital in 2007. Weren’t people supposed to die when they were that sick?”
My response: “Yes there was a time when people were dying fast and furious because of a lack of education, lack of medications and a lack of HIV/AIDS specialists. There was a day when this was considered to be a plague, and it also appeared to be only affecting the gay community. I still get overwhelmed with how I personally managed to see my way through all of this.”
Another question: “Is there a way to make people get tested for their own protection, as well as, the protection of others? For instance, when one gets their age of majority card.”
My response: “This is a wonderful suggestion and I totally agree, providing it can respect the confidentiality and rights of everyone. All I can suggest is to have a petition signed by students and then taken to your local MP for consideration to be brought forth for further discussion.”
The presentations began with a 101 discussion about HIV/AIDS to help achieve a better understanding, followed by another person’s story besides my own. This other person’s name is also John, a heterosexual man who is a former hockey player. John’s health did not allow him to join us but sent in a CD to share his story. This gentleman’s story captured even myself, and I can’t even imagine where he finds the strength to share it over and over. John also confesses to having made unwise choices that led him down a path of his own. Eventually he meets up with another person living with HIV/AIDS, and she is certainly the one for him. They met through their local AIDS Service Organization, and she always told him every night on going to bed, “that was the most beautiful day of my life and I love you”. She once again said this for the last time and never woke up the next morning…………this was to be the day that they got married.
If there is anything I can do to help comfort this man, it is to help in sharing even a tidbit of his story to help deliver the message to others.
Well, time is marching on as we get closer to yet another year having come and gone. My agency ACCKWA’s 25th anniversary has already been filled with many memorable moments, and this year’s WORLD AIDS DAY CANDLELIGHT VIGIL on Dec 1 is shaping up to be one of a kind. AIDS Awareness Week has many events scheduled by local businesses and involvement by people living with HIV/AIDS. One of my personal favorites is a display of visual being held at Kitchener City Hall, which focuses on items that ground people in times of sorrow or hardship. Please be sure to check out ACCKWA’s webpage for their calendar of events, and/or check out our World AIDS Day events at the foot of this post.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge ACCKWA’s outgoing Executive Director Colby Marcellus. Colby came into ACCKWA’s circle four years ago undoubtedly with a vision that no other could see. His patience, devotion, charisma, knowledge and expertise have forged ACCKWA’s 25 years of service into an organization of strength and courage. I have experienced incredible words of wisdom and support he offers to each and every one of us, whether staff, clients or volunteers. Colby has his own dreams that have brought him to the decision of unfortunately having to step down as Executive Director. I know that my words are echoed by many when I say Colby will be sorely missed. I’ve had opportunities to hear words spoken bymembers of the Board of Directors for ACCKWA, and seen the tears that come forth with respect to his vision and wisdom. Colby, like each of, us has had his share of learning along the way, and he is a fine example of ensuring change within himself that ripples out to those who come into contact with him.
Four years ago we were saying goodbye to Tina Schofield as Executive Director, and the list goes on and on; however, each and every one of them shared their own kind of expertise. So I’d simply like to say to Colby, all the best with your future endeavours and thank you for the time you shared with us
This month in addition to my having turned 50 years old, a dear friend convinced me to sponsor a child through PLAN Canada. His name is Sancum Cassama from Guinea Bissau. Sancum was born in Sept, 2001. His father is a peasant farmer, his mother is a housewife, and he has two brothers born in 1985 and 1995. Sancum attends primary school, and takes less than 30 minutes to reach school. His family obtains water all year round from a borehole with an electric pump, less than 1km away. The family also uses a private latrine. The nearest health facility is about two hours away. And according to the family, Sancum has been healthy and not suffered from any serious illness. My friend that convinced me to do this also sponsor’s a child. Her strategy for paying for this privilege is making her first cup of coffee at home every day, rather than going to a café somewhere and buying one. Unless you’re homeless, this makes complete sense to me, and it’s what makes the world go around - love, support, compassion.
Just a few weeks ago I was hired on part-time by ACCKWA to help out with their Practical Support Program. Having been a client and volunteer now for 15 years, I hope I’ll be able to provide additional strengths to this position.
I just returned from the annual Opening Doors Conference held in Guelph this year, and I’m happy to say I felt it was the best one yet. They really focused on the needs of and support for people living with HIV, and began this year with a one-day retreat for us to pamper ourselves, you might say.
Saturday, December 1- World AIDS Day
Old Navy Super Saturday World AIDS Day Event
Check out this fundraiser for ACCKWA at 4 locations, 9am-6pm:
70 Pinebush Rd, Cambridge (Cambridge)
Sunrise Shopping Centre (Kitchener)
Conestoga Mall (Waterloo)
Stone Road Mall (Guelph)
Art Gallery Reception
Support this ACCKWA fundraiser which includes a silent auction and an evening of art & music
Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery
25 Caroline St. N, Waterloo
ACCKWA’s Annual Candlelight Vigil
Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery
25 Caroline St. N, Waterloo
Ecumenical AIDS Memorial Service
Reception to follow
Trinity Anglican Church
12 Blair Rd, Cambridge