Care Projects Updates

An update

COVID-19. The latest on our work

For all COVID-19 information including how to protect you and yours, on testing, self-isolating, restricting movements and contact tracing: www.hse.ie/coronavirus

UPDATE: 21st October – We begin again

Following the Taoiseach’s announcement on Monday and Ireland’s move to Level 5 restrictions from Thursday, we have been busy clarifying our role and beginning again to listen to those we serve as their needs are ever changing and evolving.

As a ‘drug treatment and addiction service’ we are defined as an essential service and so our staff and volunteers are working remotely and, where necessary, face-to-face to offer support, hope, comfort, resources and much more. The context of our work has been profoundly complicated by this second pandemic we now work on. One of our current mantras as a team is “Be kind, seek wisdom, stay present.” Every day we are working with individuals, families and community leaders impacted by both HIV and Covid-19. We remain grateful for all your support through this challenging time.

UPDATE: 29th May – Returning to the Workplaces

We are currently planning for returning to our workplaces. Note that we are not returning to work, we never went away. The past 10 weeks have been among the most challenging of our 28-year history.  Rather our admin office, the homes of those we support, local parks and cafés may become places where we can encounter again those we support and serve. There will be lots to work through next week, not just the logistics of what is allowed but the reflections on what is ethical. At the heart of these discussions will be our values, particularly the mutuality of “Drinking from the Same Cup.” Please remember us as we work through how best we can support and serve the people and communities we have the privilege of walking alongside.

UPDATE: 20th May – Light at the end….

Our Inboxes are full of the Return to Work Safely Protocol and associated instructions from funders. While our work remains remote with various supports and communications still being delivered by phone and screen we have been carefully studying the phases of reopening through to August that will inform our work practices for the coming months. The need for our work remains as acute as ever with significant mental health and anxiety challenges adding to the complexity of the supports we provide for those living with and affected by HIV. Meanwhile, communities of migrant origin are helped by the health information on COVID-19 and by the translation of that information into many languages, yet still profound cultural gaps remain in communication requiring steady presence and patience.

We are also aware that the reopening will likely be far more challenging than the lockdown. In the middle of March we were ready for what the uncertain Spring would bring, our ‘tanks were full’ and we adapted well. Now exhaustion is not far away we are making sure to support one another for the cautious steps ahead. Our team, with over 100 years experience working on a pandemic, are ready for whatever the next chapter of our story will bring.

Thank you to all our supporters who have been in touch to pray for us and financially give. Your donations are deeply appreciated and are helping us continue through this challenging time. If you would like to support our work please do. More details are available here.

UPDATE: 24th April – Into the Valley

Sadly the last week has been marked by loss and no small amount of grief. The death of extended family members among those we support, including one we were very close to,  and of one faith community leader in Dublin have demonstrated how close the impact of COVID-19 is to us. Our extensive experience of mourning with those who mourn in a pandemic is real once again and it does not get any easier.

We are currently preparing for the various options that might emerge for 5th May, including recognising that the lifting of restrictions may be very limited. This may only add to the challenges that those we support experience. We have learned, the hard way, the value of eye contact and touch and shared tables and we miss the connection that they bring.

We are also acutely aware that any possible reopening will be very challenging. It will not be one big party. Trauma, grief and loss are complex and layered and so a sharing, collaboration and solidarity will be demanded in new ways. These are challenges we look forward to as we hope for new beginnings.

 

UPDATE: Holy Week 2020

There are two pandemics in the world today. We are working on both.

Sharing a cup of tea or being at table together — whether with clients, staff, or partner organisations — is core to ACET Ireland’s values.

This season is difficult for everyone and ACET’s care work is a daily challenge as the physical connection we form with those we support at a kitchen table or a community café really matters. However, WhatsApp, Zoom, text and old-fashioned phone calls are bridging the distance between us. As individuals and families affected by HIV see increased anxiety and fear each day, our staff are there with reassuring words, practical supports and a listening ear.

Although ACET’s staff are defined as essential workers under the government’s latest guidelines and are allowed travel away from home, we have been asked to keep any visits, even if delivering essential items, to an absolute minimum. With that and some staff members cocooning at home, we are using centralised resources, including our local authorities’ initiatives and HSE-funded partners, where we can.

Faith Communities:
We continue to keep faith communities including churches informed on both pandemics, including with the HSE resources. Again, information itself is only a fragment of our work and tells an incomplete story. It is the richness of faith, hope and love in action in that unites us.

Thank you for all your support.

Lamenting and Hoping

“Oh! How empty the city, once teeming with people.” Lamentations 1:1

The images of deserted streets in cities across the world are among the most striking of this extraordinary time. The opening jab of Lamentations, referring of course to Jerusalem, stresses that the prophetic words are linked to a place as much as to a people. The empty Temple, walls, gates and streets evoke the weeping and remind us that we cannot divorce ourselves from the ground beneath our feet or the neighbours we share our places with.

There are exactly two pandemics in the world today and ACET is working on both. Our experience is that lamenting the 35 million deaths of the AIDS pandemic, which will soon reach its 40th birthday, rapidly became a lament of the places where these lives were lived. This was the case whether that place was within a city with communities of profound socio-economic disparity lying adjacent to one another or the global inequality that is also driving COVID-19 or the way in which the lives of minority communities, particularly gay and bisexual men, were driven to the margins even within the familiar places of homes, schools and churches.

COVID-19 is not a ‘great leveller’ as some speculate. It impacts people and places, both far from and near our homes in different ways. The places of note for this pandemic are our supermarkets, our hospitals, our public transport services, cramped housing conditions and the lack of green urban spaces all of which involve workers and residents in roles our society considers lesser as we elevate those with the wealth to cocoon or isolate safely. 

So why lament? Lamenting draws us deep into the fault lines of injustice of which we were previously unaware. It will not leave us tolerant of the inequalities that catalyse our crises. It is an action that is both an end in itself and an opening to transformation. It puts to death the ‘wisdom of the world’ that suggests we can generate ideas and solutions to crises on our own if we are just creative and innovative enough or if we have collected enough data. Walter Brueggemann outlines the prophetic tasks of the church in such a time this as the need to “tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion, grieve in a society that practices denial, and express hope in a society that lives in despair.”

I can but speculate on what specific illusions, denials, and despairs a lamentation of COVID-19 will dismantle though it is clear that, like HIV & AIDS, this pandemic is disproportionally impacting the poorest. That will become clear in time and there will be prophets who will deeply disrupt our privileges and entitlements. The only question is whether we will have ears to hear the Spirit that anoints them.

What I do know is that this prophetic practice is central to the Easter story. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday with a wondrous, packed, city celebration that is also an illusion that the Messiah would be violent, that the way of the world would be the way out of disparity. It ends with an execution and overwhelming despair.

“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere” is the line from Seamus Heaney doing the rounds in Ireland at the moment as a motivation and inspiration. The suggestion is that the return to ‘normal’ life will be one big party. But Winter into Summer is not merely the linear progress of time with systemic fault lines left intact. It requires and demands death and rebirth. That dying includes the public acknowledgement of loss, of grief and of hope. Such public acknowledgement will come easier to some countries and communities than others.

So what must we do now? Well of course lament, take from the richness of the scriptures, from Psalms and prophecy that point us to the heart of God.

But also turn up, or at least honour those who are tasked with carrying the burden of turning up. Both of our pandemics are overwhelming. Simple acts of presence and patience can be the most profound, though now seriously limited. As we approach Easter I am struck by the women bringing spices to the tomb on the Sunday morning. Despair had not completely overwhelmed them and their tiny flicker of hope is expressed through the seemingly mundane work of physically caring for the corpse beyond the city walls. The stone is rolled away, not just to make room for Jesus’s exit (such an opening was not necessary) but to make room for the womens’ lowest of roles to be stunningly elevated, through an angelic encounter, to that of Apostles to the Apostles. Maybe the present crisis will lead us to a radical readjustment of what roles are valued in society, of where wealth is distributed and of how we care for those most vulnerable. We can only hope.

Richard Carson is ACET Ireland’s  CEO.

 

 

 UPDATE 3rd April – Holding multiple realities in tension every day.

Our work continues remotely with phone, text and Zoom (for team meetings) our main ways of communicating.

The mutuality of ‘Drinking from the Same Cup’ lies at the heart of our work but now we have to do it from a distance. It is a daily challenge as the physical connection we form with those we support at a kitchen table or a community café really matters. As individuals and families affected by HIV see increased anxiety and fear each day, our staff are there with reassuring words, practical supports and a listening ear.

We continue to keep faith communities including churches informed on both pandemics, including with the HSE resources. Again, information itself is only a fragment of our work and tells an incomplete story. It is the richness of faith, hope and love in action in that unites us.

ACET’s staff are defined as essential workers under the government’s latest guidelines so are allowed travel away from home. However we have been asked to keep any visits, even if delivering essential items, to an absolute minimum so as to follow the public health imperative of reducing the transmission of the virus. We will be using centralised resources, including our local authorities’ initiatives and HSE-funded partners, where we can.

Global inequality is at the heart of this pandemic. We are praying for our supported projects in Zimbabwe where the health infrastructure is completely unequipped for the impact of COVID-19.

Please stand with us at this difficult time for all. Thank you for all your support.

UPDATE 27th March – We are now responding to two pandemics

All our staff and volunteers continue to work remotely while staying in touch with one another via Zoom meetings. We are grateful for one another, our funders and your support.

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Where can I test for HIV?


Where can I test for HIV?

ACET’s new rapid HIV testing service is free, confidential and the result is available within 60 seconds. Contact us at 018787700 or text HTS to 0868374350 to arrange a test.

We have a range of people ready to offer testing and we can come to your faith community, ethnic association or other settings with workshops on HIV which help those we work alongside to understand the changed reality of HIV and how together we can challenge HIV-related stigma.

Rapid HIV testing in the community is just one way to access the test. For a broader picture across the country. head over to the Free HIV & STI Testing Locator Map from our friends at HIV Ireland.

All these testing sites across the island of Ireland offer free and confidential testing. Some require an appointment to be made, some are walk-in. Most offer rapid testing with immediate results.

If you are living with HIV this test can lead you to the life-saving treatment which means you cannot pass it on. Across Ireland in our towns, villages, cities, colleges, workplace, places of worship, sports clubs and more, there are people living with HIV. They are living healthy lives yet still often experience much of the stigma associated with the virus. Contact us to see how we can work together to overcome this stigma.

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Lives Without Fear

We all want the best for our families and communities. Unfortunately, drug intimidation is a large part of life in many areas of Dublin, including the North Inner City.

“Lives Without Fear – What can work?” is a locally focused Drug Related Intimidation Conference, hosted by the NICDATF and NEIC PIB (North East Inner City Programme Implementation Board).

Monday 18th June 2018 from 9:00am to 1:30pm in the Ash Suite, Croke Park. Conference is free, but booking is essential.
If you are interested in going, please let us know and we can send you a registration form.

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2017 Annual Report

Every spring as we approach our AGM, we take time to look back on the last year. CEO Richard Carson opens the 2017 report with these words:

On the noticeboard in our office there is a short list of reminders. Staff, when at their most mindful, take a moment to read them while coming from or going to our community activities. One simply states “Beginning, Middle, End, Rest.” It is a reminder of how to process one’s task of being present to the people we seek to support.

This Annual Report is a moment of ‘Rest’ – a chance to take stock of how 2017 went for the ACET Team. It is full of stories of new Beginnings, of being present in the Middle, of embracing End realities and of insisting that Rest is not a means to an efficient end but part of the impactful work itself.

We look back at the Education projects, the Care work – including the story of one family – and Matilda Project in Zimbabwe plus a snapshot of our financial accounts, with thanks to our funders, supporters and all those we work alongside.

Read the 2017 annual report here.

You can always click onto our 2017 report on our ‘Contact Us’ page, along with previous annual reports and newsletters.

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Quilt Group: Here and Now, after 25 Years

The quilt group is now in its 25th year. Some of the members are from the original core group — a testimony to the fact that this gathering continues to be relevant in today’s society.

It started in an effort to immortalise those who had been lost to HIV-related illness in the Rialto Crumlin area. As this was very challenging, the group also took time to address hope issues.

New Projects:

Recently the group created some cushions from items, such as a beloved jacket, belonging to those whom were lost. Again, making these was very emotional but we felt that it was a healing project to be involved in.

Presently we are producing a quilt with all the names of those who have died, a fitting memorial to celebrate 25 years.

The journey we undertook 25 years ago was not a certain one, but as it evolved it became clear that this group formed part of bereavement support for families in this area. We will continue to work making quilts as long as it is necessary and supportive to those who grieve.

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The new face of care work

Recently, referrals for care support have become more culturally dynamic and diverse.

While migrant clients represent a small percentage of ACETs overall client group, working with HIV and health management is layered with many complexities. ACET’s care team acknowledge the additional nuances associated with a migration story:

  • language barriers
  • cultural differences
  • limited knowledge of local community and social structures.

While medication adherence and clinic attendance tend to be consistent, migrant clients often discuss negative experiences and fears of disclosure, stigma, racism and segregation from their local community.

Unique challenges

Clients who are undocumented or living in direct provision experience further challenges associated with marginalisation and lack of education and employment opportunities. This is often combined with a concern about accepting support from external organisations and becoming identifiable and risking deportation. Finding appropriate working spaces for care support can be challenging when clients are living in direct provision centers or overcrowded homes on the outskirts of communities. Often clients are unable to travel as a result of limited finances and lack of childcare, further isolating them from necessary supports.

ACET sometimes only support

While some clients have made positive steps towards education, work and integration and have opportunities associated with being granted leave to remain or citizenship, others continue to face significant barriers associated with their undocumented status. The care team, sometimes the only support, continue to develop their understanding of the impact of the migration process and sensitively engage with clients on care plans which are reflective of ever-changing circumstances and support needs.

 

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Friends Remembering Friends

You are invited to join us in St Andrew’s Resource Centre on 30 November to remember friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, and community members who have passed away.

With songs, inspirational readings, and reciting of names, Friends Remembering Friends gives a space to reflect on those we love who are no longer with us.

Hosted by ACET board member Tony MacCarthaigh and the quilt group, who will unveil their most recent work, the event is both memorial and celebratory, as together we look to the life that is around us.

Thursday, 30 November, 12 noon, St Andrew’s Resource Centre, Rialto, Dublin 8

FriendsRememberingFriends

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New referrals

One theme of our care work over the last few months has been an influx of new people being referred to us. Different stages of the year yield different levels of referrals, and this past Autumn/Winter has seen us meeting a lot of new people. Meeting someone for the first time can be brilliant, inspiring, challenging, and nervy– all at once! Usually, in the first meeting, through listening to their story, and speaking about how ACET could work alongside them, the conversation runs on to sharing at a deeper level, and that opens the door to real connection with them and their context.

The initial stage of working with someone new can be challenging as we get to know their circumstances, learn what motivates them, and how best to support them. Sometimes, it may take a while before a person regularly keeps meetings we arrange. Lack of familiarity can be a major barrier, but perseverance and patience help overcome it. To use a horticulture analogy, this is the sowing season; putting in the work now in hope of future success. One of the people we recently started working with reflected, “At first, I wasn’t sure about you, but now I know I can call you and feel really supported”.

 

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Flower pots along a window sill.

Care Work Day to Day

In the past few months, our care work has focused on:

  • Medical support: particular clients have been motivated to engage with testing, adhere to new and existing medication regimes and attend clinic appointments with the support and encouragement of care staff.
  • New referrals: needs range from housing, health and migration issues. While building new relationships we have also assisted with applications and interagency work, alongside the appropriate health focus.
  • Linking with extended family members of existing clients: as a result of already established relationships, we have been able to provide immediate support in areas of health promotion, advocacy for social justice issues and boundaries within family units.
  • Mid-term and Easter respite: visits to museums, the zoo, Malahide Castle and Farmleigh provided a welcome break for families and individuals. Creating memories also helps strengthen intergenerational relationships. Respite is an invaluable support: we are grateful for the funding for it.

IMG_5532 IMG_5641 IMG_5735

Respite in many forms: family baking projects; rock climbing; playground time.

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