Clearly, I have been a deficient blogger in December. So on this the last day of December and the last day of the year, I will do a quick recap of the top five highlights from December in the world of Doctor V.
ONE: World AIDS Day
We launched The Pocket Square Project initiative to provide support services for my Kenyan children living with HIV with the first-ever World AIDS Day INDY event at one of my favorite establishments in Indianapolis, The Libertine Liquor Bar. You can see all the photos here, but everything about the event felt like a fabulous birthday party to celebrate more years of life for my kids. We launched our website, debuted a video describing the project, and sold lots and lots of great pocket squares to a crowd interested in fashion, philanthropy, and global health.
Photo credit: preppyguidetolife.com
TWO: Youth Initiatives in Action
With support from The Pocket Square Project, we have been able to start offering support groups for HIV-infected youth at several of the clinics that never had these groups before. Even though I wasn’t present in Kenya, the kids and clinic staff kept me updated in real time with pictures and thankful emails about the group activities. These times for interaction and education with others who understand what they are going through offer the kids a lifeline for growing up positively with HIV.
My favorite thing on WhatsApp – when my adolescents in Kenya send me photos of their events as they are taking place!
Even more fun was seeing some of our older youth living with HIV take leadership roles in organizing some of these activities. For World AIDS Day, our youth organized a soccer tournament for teams of 10-14 year-olds. They hosted a community outreach event with education on HIV and entertainment like dance troupe performances to facilitate HIV testing and awareness. They came together to run a youth activity day that featured educational sessions, a talent show, soccer match, and goat roast for over 100 HIV-infected kids. I love seeing these kids have the chance not only to grow up, but to shine. It makes my mama/doctor heart so proud.
I had the privilege of spending my birthday week in one of my very favorite places in the world – Italy. Nothing could make my heart happier than wandering around Rome and Florence, soaking in the beauty of the cities, and eating, eating, eating. Such fun. This gorgeous place.
FOUR: New Projects
New ideas are my favorite things and this month has been full of launch of new projects. The Pocket Square Project seems to have endless potential to grow. I love how my friends came together to launch this initiative to connect people around how fashion can unite local and global communities. I am also launching several other new projects. With my filmmaker collaborator, Thomas Lewis, we received a grant to create new films in Kenya that will focus on HIV-related stigma. We hope these films might generate empathy that breaks down the intense stigma and isolation surrounding those with HIV. I am also launching a research project that looks at children’s adherence to HIV medicines in Southern Africa, East Africa, and Asia (yes – LOTS of travel ahead!). Plus, we are closing out the final minutes of this year with a grant submission to explore how the HIV virus in children becomes resistant to our medicines and what we can do about this. Plenty of new adventures for work.
FIVE: Embraced by Dear Ones
Throughout this month, I have been embraced and loved by friends and family in big and small ways. For this, I will be endlessly grateful. In the first holidays after divorce, I cannot tell you how much it means when people make an extra effort to get your new address, to reach out with calls, to send texts on days they know will be difficult, to let you know that you are not alone. I have been well and truly loved, and that will be a bright memory for this transitional December of 2014.
Birthday dancing with my dear Elizabeth. With candy canes!
My darling nephews bring me nothing but joy with their love and dearness.
As an example, my dear cousin sent me this unexpected gift that makes me smile every time I look at it. These earrings were made by my cousin’s grandmother through marriage, a remarkable woman who she describes as “one of the nuttiest, naughtiest women I know.” She was once kicked out of the Kremlin! This woman, an artist, traveled the world by herself just because she wanted to. I loved this sweet and thoughtful gift filled with love and pointing to an exciting future ahead.
And so we walk together into the close of December and the new adventure of 2015! My favorite Mary Oliver for this new year ahead:
I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.