This week, the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) received a $50,000 grant from the Fund for Children at The Philadelphia Foundation. Elicia Gonzales, GALAEI’s executive director, says the money will be used to support a new Outlet program designed to empower Latino LGBT youth in Philly.
R. Andrew Swinney, president of the Philadelphia Foundation, and his board approved the grant in November of last year. GALAEI has already begun implementing the new program which connects Latino LGBT youth to counseling services, discussion groups and a community art project. The program will also provide training for youth service providers who routinely interact with these teens.
“Latino LGBT youth in North Philadelphia are often underserved, marginalized and isolated from the LGBT youth services in Center City, where they are primarily located,” admits Gonzales. “As a result, these youth often lack a sense of community and support, which can lead them to engage in risky behaviors to numb the pains of rejection and bigotry. The overall goal of Outlet is to unite and empower Latino LGBT youth to help them realize their potential to make a difference in their lives and in their communities.”
The LGBT component makes Outlet more unique by offering one-on-one support with issues related to sexuality and sexual health. “For example, youth will be able to develop action plans for coming out to their parents or identify adults they can turn to for support,” says Gonzales. “Through organized discussion groups, Outlet will create safe and affirming spaces where Latino LGBT youth can unite and combat feelings of isolation, shame and loneliness.”
The community art project – the details have yet to be announced – will also promote a sense of pride within the community and allow many of these teens to make connections with each other by working within a group setting.
As the only HIV/AIDS organization in the city that addresses the needs of Latino sexual minorities, GALAEI plans to reach 100 youth and five providers by the end of this year with the new program.
GALAEI offers free HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening at 1207 Chestnut Street, 5th floor (Mon. – Fri., 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and at the Washington West Project at 1201 Locust Street (Thurs., 9 p.m. – 1 a.m.). If you would like to be tested at another time, please call 215-851-1757 or email GALAEI at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.