I believe every vote makes a difference, the choices we make today impact tomorrow, and one person can change the world. I grew up in a politically conservative family, and being liberal at heart from early childhood helps to prepare you to voice your beliefs against diversity and for impromptu lectures, and in-services at dinner regarding organic versus factory farmed, and why everyone should be vegan. My cries went unanswered throughout my high school years, but also gave me the foundation for my future in grass roots, not for profit work and advocacy. My story began with animal rights, and while completing nursing school I became consumed by human rights.
During my journey following graduation and during my first job in public health my vision was finally clear. I was working as a visiting nurse in Harlem and Washington Heights, for a HIV/AIDS home care program. Initially, I was caring for children who were HIV+ via vertical transmission; when newborns are exposed either during pregnancy, childbirth and/or breast feeding. Within the first year in this position there were dramatic changes in HIV/AIDS care, a unique time for those of us working within the HIV/AIDS community, research was changing treatment for pregnant women, and Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) was being prescribed during pregnancy, &/or during active labor. Babies were now being born exposed to HIV or AIDS, but were seroreverting just a few short months later, and HIV negative. My home care program changed with this new success and I was now caring for my young patient's mothers, many who had found out their HIV status during their pregnancy. Woman experience so many emotions just being pregnant, how their lives will change, impending adaptions to their growing families, but a diagnosis of HIV was overwhelming and for many of my patients debilitating. My patients, the woman I respected for their resilience and selflessness to survive to care for their family inspired the creation of a not for profit organization I co-founded; Casa Esperanza para Mujeres y Niño's, Inc.
My collaboration with my business partner/best friend/sister, Takiysha McLeod, MS/MPH, RN, was the beginning of our program. My vision and passion alongside Takiysha's ability to develop and implement evidence based programs that had and have measurable goals afforded us the opportunity in 2009 to begin HIV outreach services in East New York, Brooklyn, where Takiysha was born and raised. She believed our commitment to the programs we developed would not only be accepted by the community but embraced. Our sister, Stephnie Miller, MS, joined our vision and brought our programs to the attention of community based organizations in East New York, and those linkages elevated our presence in the community. It's six years later, and we continue to provide HIV outreach in our beloved community of East New York, and our services have expanded based on the community's needs; including Domestic Violence and shelter outreach. On May 7, 2015 we will be celebrating our organizations accomplishments while raising funds to support our outreach events at Gargulio's in Brooklyn, NY. All profits will be used towards direct client services and programs, as all of our "staff" are unsalaried, and provide their talents pro bono because they believe in our mission:
We seek to ENGAGE diverse family units and EDUCATE them on available resources; EMPOWER them to provide tools to advance their communities.
We are grateful to our friends, families, colleagues, ambassadors, and collaborating community based organizations for standing by our side throughout the years.Thank you to the community of East New York, Brooklyn, for embracing and trusting us. It is your ongoing support and belief in our work and service to you that makes our efforts meaningful.