Inspire Youth Project Programs
At-risk youth and kids and teens affected by HIV/AIDS are who we serve. But to the children who make up the core of Inspire Youth Project, there are the realities that often make them confused, depressed, angry, resentful, and hopeless. They are in a risky position and the mentors, volunteers, and staff of Inspire Youth Project assist in the emotional health and development of these children.
The Mentor Program is, simply, a lifeline. The volunteer mentors (or big buddies) are an immensely giving, generous group of individuals who have pledged to open their homes, their schedules, and their ears to one child or teen in need of their very specific, very own, attention. Their interactions between the children and their mentors are meaningful and often life-long. A minimum of five hours a week of a mentor’s time is required, and many give much more. Through this undivided attention from a concerned and interested adult, the kids of Inspire Youth Project develop trust in others, in the possibilities of life, in alternate ways of living, and in their own ability to persevere. There is simply no substitute for attention. The phenomenal Inspire Youth Project volunteers provide this.
Then there are the times when kids just want to talk to kids. This is when they have Magic Circle peer support group – an on-site “talk time”. We all remember the roller-coaster quality of being a kid. It can be a torturous time of highs and lows. For at-risk children and kids affected or infected by HIV/AIDS, it is often more so. These feelings are heightened by isolation; whether it be the still-existing societal expectation of AIDS silence, that requires children and teens to tiptoe around the reality of their family member’s illness, or the simple desire to hold it all in and pretend there is nothing, at all, wrong. The relief that often occurs during Magic Circle is clear. It is here that children can let themselves go in a safe, non-judging, understanding environment.
The care that children and teens receive from the staff and volunteers of Inspire Youth Project begin to layer: parental concern and hope for their child layers upon hours of mentor talk and activity and attention which layers upon the free expression welcomed by peers within the Magic Circle. The missing layer is one so critical to kids; indeed it is the one we associated with kids as their unadulterated right: to have fun.
Inspire Youth Project is expert at providing opportunities for fun. Inspire Youth Project’s one-week residential Summer Camp (Camp Rise n' Shine) in Eastern Washington is a time of good ol’ throw out all the stops fun. From archery to bonfires, games to middle-of-the night cabin giggling, Camp Rise n' Shine is an event that these children and teens look forward to and attend year after year. That continuity and known time of fun, works to maintain or enhance children and teen’s positive attitude and hope throughout the often difficult intervening months. The annual camp memorial service also provides the opportunity to remember and celebrate together, the lives of parents and siblings who have died due to HIV/AIDS.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
What these programs have accomplished is quite simple. Inspire Youth Project developed synergistic programming to address the issues of the whole child. The basic tenants of the programs remain the same as created 25 years ago. However, each program has been adjusted slightly to meet the changing demographic population of our children and the changing face of AIDS. Inspire Youth Project has served hundreds of children. To have survived this many years and supporting many children, as other AIDS agencies have folded or merged, is a testament to the strength of the programs and the financial stability of the agency.