Intern Bee Vang Reflects on Millennials and HIV, and the Joy of Helping Residents Find Jobs — 

Bee Vang, a young woman who’s about to graduate from Luther College with a degree in Social Work, spent several months working with us as an intern this year.

During her time Bee did a lot of tremendously valuable work for us, including leading a project that helped three Clare Housing residents find employment.

A Millennial Reflects on What Her Generation Understands about HIV

When asked what surprised Bee the most when she first started working with Clare Housing, Bee, a millennial herself, was shocked to learn that HIV is still so prevalent, and that so many are contracting the virus each year.

Carmen Tomas and Bee Vang at one of the job fairs Bee coordinated with RESOURCE, INC.

Carmen Tomas and Bee Vang at one of the job fairs Bee coordinated with RESOURCE, INC.

“Young people my age don’t realize that HIV is a problem,” Bee reflected. “They don’t protect themselves. If you ask any of my peers about contracting HIV, it wouldn’t be on the top of their list of concerns.”

Bee’s personal reflection on HIV and Millennials is unfortunately backed up by the numbers. In 2015, the rate of new cases of HIV among people ages 20 to 29 jumped 24% (Minnesota Department of Health).

HIV Can Happen to Anyone

During her time here, Bee also began to appreciate how HIV can truly happen to anyone. One individual she worked with contracted HIV in his 50’s. “He was living a ‘normal’ life, but it happened to him. One of the things that I came to realize is that it’s enough to be exposed to HIV one time. You think it’s the result of a spree, but it can just be one time.”

Despite these sobering realizations, Bee’s time here at Clare Housing was also filled with little victories as well. Bee worked with Michele Boyer, program director, to encourage residents who are capable to find employment.

Bee Helps Residents Find New Hope and Joy in a Part-time Job

In addition to bringing in local nonprofit RESOURCE, INC. to do a job fair, Bee also worked one-on-one with several residents to help them find and apply successfully for a job. Many did not have access to the internet or a phone, and two did not have a resume. Bee helped them overcome these barriers.

So far, three people have found employment! This is remarkable, as many of our residents do not have employment due to disability, fear that they’ll have to “out” themselves as living with HIV to get a job, and/or the misperception that working at all will result in them losing their benefits, and their homes here at Clare Housing.

Bee worked to help residents understand that they can indeed find jobs that don’t violate the terms of their benefits, and that they don’t have to disclose their status to get a job, and the results have been very positive. Three residents so far have found employment! All were very excited about their new jobs.

One woman who currently lives in the Care Homes remarked that she’s more excited than anything to be able to get out of the house, as it can be really hard to stay home all day. Another, who got a job at a restaurant, was thrilled that she, “Might even be working with a Chef!”

“She was so proud. She told everyone around her that she’d got a job,” Bee reported. “There’s a lot of pride in that. Even if she doesn’t maintain the job, just knowing that people will hire her is huge.”

Now that her internship is over and she’s about to graduate, Bee is herself looking for a new job opportunity! We wish her luck, and are confident that her intelligence, sensitivity and skill will pave the way to a great future in Social Work.

When asked what Bee would say to those who donate and volunteer for Clare Housing, she said, “Keep supporting Clare Housing! Clare Housing, from what I’ve seen, is truly helping residents. Like the three people I helped get a job, without Clare Housing they wouldn’t have housing or the self-esteem of knowing they can be employed again. Let’s keep doing more of this!”

Thank you so much, Bee!