Thirty Miles and Worlds Apart

It’s Monday night and the 170 singers of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus have gathered on an unseasonably cool Hillcrest evening to rehearse for its upcoming Broadway Now show. There’s singing,
dancing and even a TV news crew stopping by to film the group for an upcoming segment.

Just 30 miles to the south, across the border and alongside Camino a Valle Redondo in Tijuana, the evening sun casts its rays on an entirely different scene at Albergue Las Memorias, the clinic serving as Tijuana’s de facto AIDS hospice. Some of the region’s most seriously ill people call this sparsely furnished, cinder-block constructed building their home.

Although seemingly worlds apart, the two communities have come together as part of the Chorus’ Outreach Partner program which seeks to raise awareness of people and groups doing extraordinary good in our community.

“We’ve all seen the devastation brought on by AIDS. Mix it with poverty, homelessness and addiction and it’s a powder keg waiting to explode,” said Executive Director Bob Lehman. “What this clinic is doing is just short of a miracle.”

Residents are people who have lived on the streets for a good part of their lives. The clinic provides them with food, clothes, a bed to sleep in, transportation to and from doctor’s offices and the medication they need for HIV and other illnesses. This is a “working together” community. There is no nurse or doctor on site here. It’s just the residents taking care of each other.

“I’ve seen people be nearly dead and today I see them walking around and being part of the community and being so grateful for Las Memorias,” said Reverend Jerri Handy, a missionary who works at the clinic. “The love softens hearts and changes lives.”

Members of the Chorus and the community will be collecting “wish list” items for the clinic in the weeks leading up to the April 22 & 23 Broadway Now show dates. Items needed include cleaning supplies, personal care items and over-the-counter medical and wound care supplies. Anyone wishing to donate items may drop them off during Chorus rehearsal on Monday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. at the University Christian Church at 3900 Cleveland Avenue in Hillcrest.

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