It’s a wintry Thursday night and Luiz is carefully painting a holiday ornament with bright colors. He and other members of the Catholic Charities HIV /AIDS Art Therapy Group come together each week to express themselves and find comfort in socialization.
Luiz is an introspective person with an expressive personality. Today, he eloquently shares his viewpoints with thoughtful precision. Before coming to Catholic Charities, Luiz said he was at his lowest.
“It scares me to think of what I could have been missing,” he said. “Now I tell myself tomorrow is another day and tomorrow I’m going back to Catholic Charities.”
While tonight the participants are decorating ornaments, they do different activities each week. Sometimes they dance. Other nights they create 3D art or paint. In addition to art therapy, Luiz receives one-on-one counseling and attends two weekly groups: one for men and one specifically for Latinos.
Luiz came to Catholic Charities about a year ago through a referral at the HIV /AIDS clinic in Lake County, Illinois. “I remember the day very well because it was my last resort,” Luiz said. “I thought my life was coming to an end. I left a changed person.”
Catholic Charities serves the emotional needs of clients through case management and counseling. Physical needs such as transportation and nutrition are also met.
When Luiz walked through Catholic Charities doors, he said he knew he was in the right place. “I look forward to hurdles because now I know I can jump over them,” he said. “It’s like the satisfaction an athlete would feel from a home run. It makes me happy I’m still alive today.”
Catholic Charities was an early responder to the HIV /AIDS epidemic, recognizing that a compassionate response was needed and in keeping with Catholic Social Teaching. Along with providing social services, Catholic Charities also seeks to educate the public to reduce the stigma and rejection faced by those affected by HIV /AIDS.