The recipient of the Community Partner of the Year award is chosen based on their commitment to powerful impact in communities, fostering active citizenship, and utilizing the efforts of alternative break groups to forward their vision.
AIDS Services of Dallas
Community Partner: AIDS Services of Dallas | Dallas, Texas
Site Contact: Alex Sanchez | Volunteer Service Manager
Nominator: Hannah Schauf | Kansas State University
“AIDS Services of Dallas has worked with K-State Students for well over 10 years. Each year they facilitate an unmatched service-learning environment. The staff is full of passionate and loving individuals who care about the well-being of Kansas State student volunteers, as well as their residents. Students come back from their Alternative Break at ASD invigorated with the fire of change and a newfound commitment to being an active citizen." - KSU Student Coordinator
About the Organization:
AIDS Services of Dallas provides housing and support services for low income and homeless individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS.
Their mission is to “create and strengthen healthy communities through the delivery of quality, affordable, service-enriched housing for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS. ASD’s mission includes advocacy, education, and the development of affordable housing options and community development opportunities, both for its residents living with HIV/AIDS, and for economically disadvantaged people.”
Connections to Community
ASD operates four apartment complexes with 152 bedrooms within 125 private apartments to serve 225 people within the community. They offer a wide range of support services - examples include comprehensive case management, food services, and home health care.
The breadth of their programs are designed to remove barriers to care and empower residents to cope with the cyclical impact of HIV/AIDS. ASD also partners with other local organizations, like Prism Health North Texas to host events advocating for the LGBTQ community in Dallas.
Volunteers engaged in meaningful work
“By allowing our students to implement their creative side during service, ASD has created meaningful memories for our students and lasting connections between volunteers and the staff and residents of ASD. AIDS Services of Dallas has always allowed opportunities for students to create personal relationships with all aspects of the organization.” - Hannah Schauf, Kansas State University
Volunteer teams work alongside both the staff and residents of ASD to form meaningful and holistic relationships, rather than just assisting and providing services. Volunteers work to support staff in the array of services offered: providing residents’ meals during supper club, stocking and organizing the facilities, and participating in special events. Volunteers have also worked on beautification projects such as painting or creating playground and garden areas.
"The most rewarding aspect of the Dallas trip was being able to work in community with people and not just for them. On the last day, some residents helped clean up a garden area and it was cool to see that our work wasn’t just something that we came in and did and then left. People felt a personal connection to the work because they had a hand in it and because we developed relationships." - KSU Participant
Compelling Issue Education, Orientation, and Training
ASD’s Board of Directors often sits down with student groups during each break to talk to them about the details of HIV/AIDS: the history, stigma, and culture surrounding the disease. They deepen students’ understanding of what ASD and other organizations are doing to support individuals and communities, as well as how they work to challenge parts of the culture. The organization works hard to raise awareness of the topic, especially for volunteers who haven’t had previous experience or exposure.
Orientation to the community and organization happens through initial conversations with the Board of Directors but also manifests through relationship building with the residents and the staff. Students create personal relationships with individuals living with HIV/AIDS - humanizing the topic and introducing volunteers to an understanding of residents’ lives in Dallas.
ASD works hard to challenge the narrative that individuals living with HIV/AIDS are defined by their disease - training volunteers in both hard and soft skills to meaningfully participate in capacity-building projects. Before beginning on-site work, volunteers are trained on holistic health care, what it means to see a human through a disease, and are taught helpful skills to encourage mutually enriching interactions with residents.
“I learned a lot about effective and holistic approaches to serving others just like ASD does. In seeing how the non-profit addresses medical, economic, emotional, and financial needs, I aim to apply these practices to serving people wherever they desire support." - KSU Participant
Press inquires? Send us an email breakaway [at] alternativebreaks [dot] org.