Empowerment Center and Community Gatherings Report

VillageCare is a highly regarded, not-for-profit provider of high quality care for people with chronic diseases including HIV/AIDS, as well as older adults and individuals in need of continuing care, rehabilitation and medical services. Thanks to the Phil Zwickler Foundation, VillageCare has been able to offer a Community Gatherings Program, as well as the opening of the new VillageCare Empowerment Center to clients of the VillageCare AIDS Adult Day Health Center, as well as other VillageCare programs. These programs help to ensure that clients receive up-to-date health information and the latest effective approaches in treatment adherence.
Community Gatherings Program

The VillageCare Community Gatherings Program aims to bring individuals that often receive their health care information remotely, together face to face to meet their care coordinators and treatment adherence facilitators. Our first event was held on April 24, 2015, which focused on the impact that VillageCare has made on the lives of the people we serve through treatment programming and peer-supports.

The discussion opened with a true VillageCare success story. A former client of the Day Treatment program, who is now employed at VillageCare as a Marketing Representative, presented the positive impact that the program has contributed to his life, enabling him to create a career pathway. He pointed out the importance of being immersed in a therapeutic setting with others who have been diagnosed with HIV to help one cope and grow effectively.

With the goal of creating an interactive and engaging forum, participants made their way around the room that featured displays portraying the various dimensions of treatment:
  • Mental Health
  • Medication Adherence
  • Harm Reduction
  • Substance Abuse
At each display station, participants added their own experiences of how that particular element of treatment has helped them. This exercise not only promoted adherence but helped peers understand the importance of a multifaceted approach in effective treatment.

Empowerment Center Update

This summer we were pleased to open the new VillageCare Empowerment Center. The Empowerment Center offers a space for clients to connect their abilities with peers who are going through similar challenges. Participants can attend a wide range of groups from life skills that teach budgeting to meal planning to HIV risk reduction, as well as new skills to support each one's independence and wellness.

A grand opening ceremony was held in June that included a lovely breakfast, as well as moving speeches by two clients of our Day Treatment Program, one of whom is now a member of our Business Development team. The audience was also treated to an amazing musical performance from our music therapy program that included staff and clients. The event was well-attended and included government officials, providers, community supporters, clients and friends. We were also pleased to welcome Alan Zwickler to help us successfully open the new Center.

In its initial months, groups have varied in participation based on the topic matter. The schedule has been fluid, as we continue to modify it based on the needs of the clients that attend on particular days.

This summer, occupational therapy interns from Columbia University coached time management and money management skills, as well as self-defense. A survey showed that clients were mainly interested in computer classes. Our facilitators were focused on basic computer knowledge, as client experience with computers varies with a majority having very little experience with computers. Those who do have extensive experience with computers continued their education by serving as part of the editorial team of the program's newsletter "It Takes a Village." The first newsletter of the year was published in September. The group utilizes the Empowerment Center to plan, design and layout the newsletter that is distributed to the AIDS Adult Day Health Center clients. The Community Advisory Board of members also utilizes the Empowerment Center for their weekly meetings.

We anticipate participation in the Empowerment Center to grow over time. As clients take advantage of the open computer lab when they visit, participation will grow through word-of-mouth.