Ruth is HIV positive and has been a member of Body & Soul since childhood. Her mother passed away when she was still little and she was left in the sole care of her father. She has struggled with various health complications; at one point her health got so bad that she was unable to walk and was using a wheelchair to get around.
As a teen Ruth attended our Teen Spirit programme sporadically and accessed support services when she needed them. Body & Soul was there throughout her adolescence to support her, but also to witness her recovery: now in her twenties, she has a degree and is working. We sometimes call her a ‘miracle child’ because of the amazing journey she has been on since her difficult childhood.
There have been stretches of time when we haven’t heard very much from Ruth – there was a period of eight months or so recently when we couldn’t get in touch with her. Rather than assume she had disengaged, however, we continued to reach out to her on a monthly basis either by phone or text to let her know we were here for her. Eventually we managed to speak to her: it emerged that she had been having problems with her phone and had been out of the country for a long stretch, which explained why we hadn’t heard back from her.
We asked Ruth if she would like us to continue to be in touch with her, and she said she would. She has been receiving regular calls from our remote support service, Beyond Boundaries, for over a year now, and she attended her first Young Adults evening in January. She received a very warm welcome from other members who had not seen her in years, and she said she enjoyed the evening. She plans to attend Young Adult evenings in the future whenever she can.
Ruth is doing well in life, and is busy with her work and personal life, but she has expressed her appreciation for Body & Soul’s persistence in maintaining contact with her. The support we offer Ruth demonstrates the flexibility of our approach – we are here for our members as and when they need us, whatever form that support might take.
Hillard is not HIV positive himself, but became a Body & Soul member through his mother, who is positive. We were first introduced to Hillard a year ago, after he had been admitted to a mental health ward and diagnosed with schizophrenia. We worked with Hillard’s mental health team to establish the best way of supporting him without interfering with the work of his mental health team.
Hillard is no longer in hospital, which means he is free to attend Body & Soul service evenings. He attended his first Young Adults service evening last December and has attended regularly since the new year. This has been highly beneficial for Hillard. He is a quiet person who doesn’t often interact with other members, but the workshops he is attending are helping him to develop his emotion regulation skills and to form connections with other members. He frequently attends the dance workshops and recently joined a spoken word workshop in which he interacted with others in the group and even did a small performance.
Hillard told me that he enjoys the Young Adult evenings. It is great to see him feeling more at ease in the Body & Soul community and more willing to discuss his mental health issues. He frequently has paranoid delusions and thoughts of self-harming and suicide, so I am working with his psychologist to devise a support plan for him. With our continued support, I’m hoping that Hillard will build on the progress he has already made in managing his emotional and mental health.