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Guatemala 2018

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!


First Full Day in New York? Check

Wow, what a day! Melani here!

We don’t start at GMHC until tomorrow, so we spent our Sunday sight seeing and getting to know New York City and the diverse cultures within the city. After all, the mission of this trip is Diversity and Inclusion!

A group of us started out nice and early at 6:30 to go to Tom’s Diner for breakfast. Most of you have probably seen the inside of the diner and you didn’t even know it! Tom’s Diner was the diner that many scenes of the show Seinfeld were filmed in. It was pretty neat, and the food was delicious!



After breakfast, we met up with the rest of the group to hop on a fairy to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. These sites are such a huge part of American history, and were such an amazing place to visit. We have all seen pictures of these monuments, however the pictures do not do justice to just how breath taking  the view actually is! That being said, here’s a picture of our group leader Brooke high-fiving the Statue of Liberty!


For lunch, we made our way to Harlem for some Soul Food at Sylvias! It was SO delicious! Every Sunday they do a Gospel Breakfast with a gospel singer for entertainment. It made me want to dance! It was such a fun, warm, and welcoming environment, I would HIGHLY recommend Sylvias if you ever find yourself in New York City. There hot sauce is amazing! So amazing that between all of us, we bought 12 bottles to take home with us!

After lunch, we tried to go to The Studio, a museum in Harlem devoted to African American artwork, but they were closed due to a change in exhibits. Bummer! We then split up to do some shopping! The group I was with went to Little Italy for cannolis and China Town for some souvenir shopping. These neighborhoods were so amazing unlike anything I have ever seen before. The people are so diverse, and it was such a cool experience. The food there is to die for! We also payed a visit to the New York Public Library, which is quite the building. They have an exhibit going on right now titled, “In The Public Eye” I thought it was a fitting message considering the volunteerism we are all so passionate about, both in Oshkosh and New York, and how we are working to make the world a better place.


We originally had a big dinner planned, but we were all still stuffed from Sylvia’s so some of us went walking again, and the other half went to the Empire State Building. Since I only went in the lobby, I’ll let Rachel tell you all about that! 🙂

We were all pretty exhausted after such a long day and we’re hoping to get a good nights rest before our first day tomorrow at GMHC!

Good morning!


Catching the edge of Central Park meeting the city early this morning on our way to breakfast!

Welcome to NYC!


Hi there! Rachel here! We have made it to NYC!!!

The trip started out very early, with sharing a bus to Chicago with the New Orleans trip. After making it through check in and security without any big hiccups, we had several hours to kill in the airport. We passed the time with an airport wide picture scavenger hunt in groups of three. The objective was to find different things around the airport, such as a gender neutral bathroom, and take a picture of a group member(s) in front of it. Despite a few awkward glances from fellow airport goers, it was a blast!

The flight went by extremely fast and before we knew it, we were in NYC! Our first stop after getting our luggage was to buy metro cards. We then caught our first bus. The fellow passengers weren’t exactly pleased with our group of 10 + luggage, and a few vocalized their displeasure… we brushed it off with a smile until we were able to get off.

From there we caught the subway, which was another first for everyone! (Well, Danielle our Advisor and I have been to NYC before… but it was a first for most everyone!) The turnstiles were a bit tricky with luggage, but the real shocker came when we spotted the rats in the rails! The subway right went pretty easy, though we did accidentally catch an express train… oops! The extra walk to the West Side YMCA where we are staying was a good chance to stretch our legs for a few blocks.

After a few minutes of freshening up we headed to Timesquare!!! It was approaching dusk at this time so the city lights were breathtaking. We were really in awe of the enormity of the lights and advertisements. We walked around for awhile before deciding on Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. The wait was an hour and a half, but they actually text you when your table is ready, which is a little different. The group I was in literally had to RUN back in order to get back for our reservation! Dinner (and many glasses of water) were much appreciated after a long day of travel and walking.


It’s late here now and definitely time for some rest. Tomorrow we have breakfast where scenes from Seinfeld were filmed and we are also going to Ellis Island. We will keep you updated with our adventures!


3 days until we leave!


With only days before we officially leave, it’s time for an introduction post! We are the ASB New York City trip! First we will introduce our bloggers and then move on to what our trip is focused on.

My name is Rachel Peckham and I am a senior in the nursing program at UWO. I chose to go on this trip because I am always trying to find ways to immerse myself into different cultures and gain different perspectives, especially in preparing for my future in the nursing field. This trip especially was perfect for me because of the HIV/AIDS education portion. I am lucky enough to have gone to Guatemala with ASB two years ago, and I am so excited to go on another trip! I look forward to being able to update those from home with the progress of our trip.

Hi, My name is Melani. I’m the other blogger who will be writing throughout the trip! I’m a junior in the nursing program. I wanted to go on this trip to learn more about HIV/AIDS and gain knowledge about such a devastating disease. I have always wanted to go to New York, and I have a passion for volunteering, so when the opportunity for this trip came up, I had to jump on it. I cannot believe that in just a few short days we’ll be flying to “The Big Apple”, I am so excited!

In New York we will be volunteering at GMHC, whose mission it is to fight to end the AIDS epidemic and to uplift all the lives of those affected. A portion of our volunteering with this organization will be providing meal service. This can include serving up the food, assisting disabled clients, and cleaning up. There is also opportunity to sit and talk with those coming for meals and to learn from their personal life experiences.

Aside from GMHC we will be dedicating much of our time to immersing ourselves in the rich history that New York City has to offer. This involves seeing things like Central Park, Times Square, and a show on Broadway. We will also be visiting many historical sites such as Ellis Island and the World Trade Center Memorial.

We will be updating our blog throughout the week with pictures and entries to keep you all updated on our adventures!

Can’t wait!


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June 2024