In the early ’90s, I volunteered for ICARE (Iowa City AIDS Resources and Education), which was then an independent grassroots organization devoted to supporting people with HIV/AIDS in the community. I threw myself into the work, and on several occasions was a facilitator in the organizations trainings.
These trainings were the most intense educational experiences that I’ve ever had. We spent nearly twenty hours over two weeks exploring what we could do to help people experiencing a devastating, poorly understood medical crisis, and what we could do to counter the stigma that HIV/AIDS and homosexuality carried. Volunteers and trainers had to speak openly about their fears and their preconceptions. Role-plays enacted difficult, dangerous and gut-wrenching scenarios. The training forced the participants to confront what would keep them from helping, as well as showing them strengths they did not know they had.
These trainings were peak experiences for almost everyone who participated, and they founded extraordinarily enriching service, once we began working in the organization.
At the end of each training, the staff and the volunteer trainers would go for a drink and dinner to celebrate the work. One such evening, at dinner, I said to my dinner companion, “This is about the most powerful training I can imagine. I find it hard to imagine anyone going deeper.”
She responded, “The Crisis Center training is just as good. Maybe better.”
Since that day, more than twenty years ago, I have heard this statement echoed over and over. The Crisis Center of Johnson County has a simple vision, according to their website, “every individual in Johnson County, Iowa, has support in a time of need.” In order to accomplish this goal, there are people answering their phones all day, every day, who must be prepared for anything. The work is frequently life saving for the person needing help, and it is life changing for the person helping.
These changes begin with Crisis Center volunteer training. An informational meeting about upcoming training is scheduled for Jan. 24, 6–7:00 p.m., at their location at 1121 Gilbert Court in Iowa City. I strongly encourage anyone who reads this to check out the Crisis Center website, and to come out for the meeting. You can make a difference.