Helping injection drug users provides learning experience
Teresa Hogan, a junior in the Anthropology department, was sitting in her Anthropology of Drugs class last year when members of the community came in to speak. One of those people was Lisa Raville, the director for the Harm Reduction Action Center (HRAC), who was there to speak about what HRAC does and how it impacts the community. “I was really moved by Lisa’s story and I wanted to volunteer,” said Hogan.
HRAC was founded in 2002 and has since been Colorado’s primary provider of HIV/HCV prevention and services to injection drug users throughout Denver. The organization works to educate, empower and advocate for the health and dignity of injection drug users and their affected partners.
HRAC strives to provide a healthcare system for injection drug users that they would otherwise not have access to. They serve 800 injection drug users and over 1,000 homeless during their street outreach programs. Every morning during their syringe access hours they see about 50 people.
In late 2012 Hogan began to volunteer with HRAC doing work with the syringe access program, data entry, street outreach and policy efforts. “I became really interested in how everything operated and was amazed at what the organization could accomplish with such a small staff and space,” Hogan said of the program.
Not long after beginning to volunteer, Hogan realized something was going to have to give in her life. “I was working full time, going to school full time and now volunteering,” Hogan said, “I had to find balance and would need to somehow condense it all.”
Hogan decided she wanted to acquire an internship at HRAC, “I wanted experience working with a nonprofit organization and a cultural experience I was interested in, but would not otherwise have been exposed to,” Hogan said.
Raville said of HRAC’s interns, “They are essential to the operation of small nonprofits and we are no different.” She added, “Teresa has been a great asset and has been very flexible in her internship. I appreciate her willingness to work with injection drug users, many of whom are homeless.” Raville reflected that Hogan will excel in any job that she would like to obtain.
Hogan concluded, “While these projects I have been a part of may help the organization in a small way, they have really helped me in a huge way and I cannot thank them enough for the experience they have given me. Honestly, the best part about working with HRAC has been to see the trust that they are able to build with their clients and the community. The balance that exists within this organization is remarkable and I am grateful to be a part of it.”