Beginning as a weekly support group, The Heart of Richmond was founded following meetings with a number of people in the community who were living with HIV/AIDS or were involved as a family member, friend or caregiver. The Heart of Richmond was incorporated as a society and designated as a charitable organization in 1997. One of our proudest achievements has been the creation, in partnership with Richmond Health Services, of the Gilwest Clinic — a fully staffed HIV/AIDS Clinic at Richmond Hospital.
- To reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on individuals and our community through support, prevention and education.
- Making a difference
History and Achievements
The founding members discovered that there were essentially no medical or support services in Richmond relating to HIV/AIDS. Those affected by the disease were forced to travel to downtown Vancouver to obtain these services. This was difficult for people in poor health and particularly inappropriate for those who had become infected as a result of drug use. Bringing services to Richmond became a major goal of the organization and we began campaigning for better medical services in the fall of 1997. We worked with Richmond Health Services and, in September 1999, the Gilwest Clinic was opened at the Richmond Hospital. This Clinic is open for three sessions per week and offers a full range of treatment including specialist doctors, nurses, pharmacists, addiction counsellors, a social worker and a dietician. We continue to work closely with the Clinic through our Outreach Worker who liaises with the clinic staff, and by participation in its Advisory Board. The establishment of the Gilwest Clinic has been a key achievement of the Society.
- The support group continues to be an important aspect of our organization. It meets on a bi-weekly basis, often with guest speakers, and we also organize a dinner once per month. For most of each year this dinner is hosted by the Outreach Committee of South Arm United Church. We find that the nature of the support group is continually changing and we adjust its format to meet the needs of the clients, particularly those who have been recently diagnosed.
- Our Outreach Worker is very active, working with our clients through advice and referral, advocacy for suitable low-cost housing, assistance in attending doctor’s appointments and general support.
- Our High School Education Prevention Program has been highly successfully reaching 1500 students per year. We also conduct formal educational seminars on awareness and prevention and have arranged displays at many public events, particularly around World AIDS Day on December 1st. We also distribute condom packages in locations frequented by young people.
- The Grocery Voucher Program has also been a fundamental part of our work and is a key support ensuring adequate nutrition for our clients who have low or fixed incomes.
Our organization has an elected Board comprising twelve members which operates the Society. Our Constitution requires that at least two Board members be HIV positive and we comply with that requirement. We currently employ an Outreach Worker who works full time, operating programs which support our clients. We also have a part-time Coordinator/Office Administrator who performs administrative duties. We are lucky to have numerous volunteers who work on the various activities of the Society including our Annual Fundraiser.
We also partner with Volunteer Richmond’s Leadership Now program representatives who work on projects with our organization. We cooperate closely with The Gilwest Clinic and The Oak Tree Clinic (HIV/AIDS clinics in Richmond and Vancouver), Richmond Health Services and Richmond Addiction Services. The Outreach Committee of The South Arm United Church prepares and serves the monthly dinners for our support group for most of the year and is very supportive of our organization.