Rise n' Shine Foundation Programs
Kids and teens affected by HIV/AIDS are who we serve. But to the kids who make up the core of Rise n’ Shine, there are the realities that often make them confused, depressed, angry, resentful, and hopeless. They are in a risky position. For those whose parent or parents have already died of AIDS, and for those whose only parent is living with HIV/AIDS, the impending, and eventually absolute, desertion of their parent creates a gaping hole that can only slowly be filled by others. There is a tremendous amount of guilt and loss on the part of the infected parent. They are often not there for their child or children, whether physically, due to hospitalization or debilitating symptoms, or emotionally, due to the extreme toll the disease takes on mental and emotional energy levels. There are sports events to attend, audiences to be a part of, projects to be created together, and quiet times to simply spend together. However, these parents often fall far short of their own wishes and expectations in this regard, and this too, takes a toll.
The mentors, volunteers, and staff of Rise n’ Shine therefore not only assist in the emotional health and development of the children, but also in the physical and mental health of their parent(s), as they pick up some of these care giving needs.
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 Rise n’ Shine 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 Rise n’ Shine 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 children 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 Rise n’ Shine 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.
Rise n’ Shine is expert at providing opportunities for fun. Rise n’ Shine’s one-week residential Summer Camp 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, the Rise n’ Shine camp 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. Rise n’ Shine developed synergistic programming to address the issues of the whole child. The basic tenants of the programs remain the same as created 24 years ago. However, each program has been adjusted slightly to meet the changing demographic population of our children and the changing face of AIDS. Rise n’ Shine 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.
Currently, our organization needs a new computer system which allows us to easily communicate with our donors, our volunteers and our kids & families.