Archive for the 'New York 2015' Category

Home safe!

Hi Everyone! Melani, here!

After about 10 hours of traveling, we arrived home last night. It was such a fun trip, and an amazing experience, but I think I speak for everyone when I say we were happy to sleep in our own beds last night! I was planning on blogging last night once I was home, but I was out like a light!

Friday we had our last day at GMHC. We watched a powerful documentary called “How to Survive a Plague”. If you can get your hands on it, I highly suggest you watch it! It focuses on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and how back then, the government was reluctant to spend a lot of money to try to find a cure, or even medication to help slow the progression of the disease. The documentary follows Act Up, a civil rights group through their journey to get medication that is safe and effective. It was an extremely emotional journey. There’s this one scene where they go to Washington DC, and start dumping the ashes of their loved ones on the White House lawn to get people to listen. It was a powerful statement, and it breaks my heart to know that people had to go that far!

We were all a little sad to leave GMHC. It was such an incredible opportunity, and we all learned so much! Its hard to put into words how valuable this time was for me. One thing someone said to us really stuck out to me. Someone said, “It might seem like you’re not doing much. But even if you’re just stuffing envelopes, it’s important. One of those envelopes you’re stuffing might raise thousands of dollars to help people.”

After leaving GMHC for the last time, we went to the historical Stone Wall Inn. For those of you who don’t know, the Stone Wall Inn is a historically famous gay bar. This is where many people say the gay rights movement began. Back in the 1970’s, it was illegal to sell a drink to anyone who was gay, so they opened bars specifically for people who identified that way. It was also a law, that you had to wear three items of clothing from your gender. A lot of these people dressed how they wanted, and often these bars were subject to police raids, even though they didn’t do anything wrong. On one of these raids at the Stonewall Inn, people fought back, and riots ensued. This started the gay rights movement.


It was amazing to get to go inside this bar. It still operates as a gay bar, and it’s decorated with newspaper articles from that time period. We went to look around, and by chance, the one guy sitting in the bar happened to be at the riots that night so long ago! It was amazing to hear the story from someone who was actually there. We were incredibly lucky!

After Stonewall, we had a little down time to get ready for Broadway! We went to see Kinky Boots, and it was a great performance. The premise is a man takes over his father’s failing shoe business after he passes away. In order to save the company he starts making a new product, shoes for drag queens. It’s a hilarious show!

Saturday morning, we had a few hours to explore and have breakfast one last time. (I am going to miss crepes SO much!) and then we flew to Chicago and met up with the New Orleans group and drove back to Oshkosh. It was a long trip, but so worth it!

A New York minute

Hi there everyone! This is Rachel!

We apologize for the blog silence the past few days. The YMCA we have been staying at has been having issues with their Internet connection!

We hhave spent the past few days volunteering and exploring the city. At GMHC we have been helping send out promotional materials for teams that have signed up for AIDS Walk New York/New Jersey. This includes putting team numbers on promotional cards and making posters and such. We have also had the opportunity to serve lunch to clients at GMHC. This also gave us the chance to eat lunch with them and talk with them. It struck some of us how normal the conversations were. Just chatting about weather, or places to eat. Their diagnosis doesn’t define them and they don’t let it.  Yesterday we also helped to put together safer sex kits, which the organization gives out for free to clients, schools, churches, etc.

As far as city exploration, we have been lucky enough to visit so many sites around the city. We have seen the Jewish history museum, some went to Good Morning America, toured churches, visited Chinatown and Little Italy. It’s all blurring by so fast! Yesterday we walked on the High line,  which is a former rail road that was converted to walking trails.

I believe I can speak for the group in saying that we have really learned that HIV truly has no “type”. It can affect anyone of any age, any race, any background. It isn’t always people who have engaged in what could be considered “risky behaviors”. Having the opportunity to listen to the stories of these people has been an incredible learning opportunity. These people are just like anyone and everyone else.

Today is our last day at GMHC and we are going to Broadway tonight!


Tuesday in NYC

Hi everyone! This is Melani this time!


We had another full busy day today in NYC!  We did a lot of walking again today, 11.7 miles according to my fitbit! We started off as two groups today. Half of us went to New Jersey to go to Carlo’s Bakery, a bakery featured on the show Cake Boss. The group I went with went for a walk through Central Park. We are staying at the YMCA which is right on the edge of Central Park, so it was a nice way to spend our morning. The weather was really the nicest that we’ve had all week. Here’s a picture we took in Central Park this morning.



After breakfast, we all met up again, we went to GMHC to help out prepare for their annual AIDS walk. This is a big event  that takes place every year. It is a huge fundraising event for them, and really builds support and awareness for their cause. Today we helped them by stuffing folders. Every team who requested promotional materials to put out in their organizations in the community gets a folder full of posters, cards to hand out, displays for the cards, and even bookmarks promoting the event. They can request a certain amount of each material, so we went through and basically built their custom orders. It was a pretty cool process. I never really realized how much work went into promoting an event of this size. We did this all day, and  STILL had plenty of orders left afterwards. It was really incredible how much work this organization puts into such an important cause.



In the afternoon, we grouped up with our friends with the University of Missouri to work on more folders. They are also here on an Alternative Spring Break Trip, so it was really cool to get to talk with them and make new friends!

After GMHC, we went over to the 9/11 Memorial. That was an incredible experience, to say the least! It was So beautiful and breathtaking, and emotional. There really are not words to describe how it made me feel. The people who designed and built it did an amazing job of preserving the memory of those lost on that day.




I think the most moving part of the whole experience was seeing the names of all the lives lost. It was incredibly sad, and really put the vastness of our loss that our country experienced that day into perspective for all of us. Another inspiring aspect of the memorial is the Survivor Tree.




This is the only tree that survived the bombings. The fact that this tree was able to survive such a traumatic event that brought down two huge metal towers is quite unfathomable. After the fact, conditions were not ideal for this tree, so it needed help to survive. People pitched in and helped it grow. They protected it during the aftermath clean up, they supported it and watered it, and protected it even during construction of the monument. With the love and care of the people around it, this tree was able to overcome the obstacles thrown at it. It is able to thrive and stand tall. That is a very powerful message.


Day Three


Hello there! This is Rachel again in NYC!

We had such an amazing day today and did so many different things! It’s hard to believe what we all packed in today. This morning we met bright and early (I’m sensing a trend here…) and we adventured out to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. I don’t think we have mentioned it before… but it is COLD. We all packed thinking more optimistially, but as we have seen updates from home, optimism for spring doesn’t always bring warm weather. This morning only solidified this fact as it was quite windy and cold on the bridge. Despite the frozen fingers and wind burnt faces, it was absolutely beautiful.

After stopping to refuel and rewarm at a coffee shop, we stopped by the world’s largest Macys. It was absolutely insane! There were NINE floors. The first floor was literally only makeup and perfume. I can’t even imagine how many employees they must have. We are also lucky enough to be there during their Bloom event, so there were flowers everywhere.

From there we headed to GMHC for our first day of volunteering. This day served more as a orientation to the background of this organization and then a lot of information about the different facets of the organization, such as client services, legal services, and other things. Every speaker was so passionate about their part and it was a really great introduction. We also got a big overview of HIV/AIDS for those not as familiar with the topic. There is also a university from Missouri during this week and we will be doing a lot of things with them at GMHC as well.

From there we went to China town and Little Italy to do some shopping before dinner. The group I was with found a lot of little trinkets, but my favorite part was stopping in a grocery store and picking up some unique candies for my loved ones at home! After that we had dinner at Lombardi’s, which had the most amazing pizzas with fresh mozzarella. We had a great reflection during dinner and we all feel really good about the work that we will be doing this week.

After dinner we split into two groups in search of gelato. The group I was with found a great shop called Mo where they were very patient in letting us try a few flavors before we decided. Afterwards we caught the subway, and after a missed stop, and then a wrong train, then the right train back…. we finally got home!

Tomorrow some of the group is heading to Carlos Bakery in Jersey, and some will be walking in Central Park. We have a long day of volunteering at GMHC tomorrow!




Empire State Building!

As Melani said earlier, we had a ton of stuff going on! Near the end of our evening our group split into two. Six of us decided to go to the top of the Empire State Building. (It was really the 86th floor, but come on!)

We went right about at sunset and luckily for a sunday night the lines were not too bad. Walking out onto the observation deck was absolutely breathtaking. The sun was just finishing setting and the city lights were really starting to shine. The wind was absolutely brutal though, so we had to make it pretty quick!

As someone who was on the fence about going on this adventure, I am so glad I did. Pictures absolutely do not do it justice at all, but here are a few

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After our perfect end to an evening we were hungry, tired, and ready to head home! When we got to the subway there was a street performer who was essentially mixing in his own beats on an drum kit with other music. Albeit hard to explain, it was the perfect energy to bring our night to an end. As we got out of the subway we grabbed a late dinner at a food cart and came back to the Y.

Bright and early tomorrow we are heading to the Brooklyn Bridge before our first day a at GMHC. Can’t wait!


June 2018
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