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IMG_1698We got a firsthand experience of an early morning, big city commute on the subway. Those trains were packed! The New Yorkers were doing their own thing; reading, sleeping, figuring out where their stops were…and then there was us laughing and joking around. People could easily tell that we are from out of town. Most people have been helpful when asking for help with navigation or our Metrocards that decide to work sometimes but not others. However, a few have been sort of rude. A subway car is such a small area, but there are so many different things to watch and notice.

The group got to the GMHC early. When it was time to start,we were given volunteer orientation followed by a tour of the facility. Our tour was given to us by David Pais, the director of the facility. He walked us around and showed us all of the departments and gave us a history of GMHC. They offer so many services to their clients, from testing and medication, to counseling and meals, even art classes and massages. It was also surprising to learn that they offer legal services for immigrants affected by the virus. The amount of dedication the workers have for their jobs and caring for others is extremely admirable.

After that we were given an in depth lesson about the HIV virus. It was helpful to learn details about it and have it be broken down step by step. We asked many questions and got great answers.

The last portion of our time at the GMHC was spent learning about Trans awareness.  Our instructor was a Trans woman who gave personal insights and experience to our training. She was very open about her gender and sexuality and taught us that gender is not what you are born, but what you are assigned by others. She also taught us about the types of identifiers that people may use and why it’s important to use a persons preferred pronouns. it was a very thought provoking experience and a good way to end our first day of volunteering.

The rest of the day was spent shopping at Macy’s, the Croc store, and Sephora. Macy’s was 9 stories tall! Who knew there could be so much stuff to buy? We also passed the Empire State Building all lit up at night. It was a nice view.