It’s the Only Scholarship for HIV Positive Scholars, with Less Than 30 Days To Apply

The HIV League, a New York-based nonprofit is currently accepting applications for the 2019 HIV League Scholarship, which will award up to $7,000 to a handful of deserving post-secondary part-time and full-time scholars living with HIV. The deadline to the submit is January 31.

The scholarship initiative appears to have been around for at least two years and has awarded scholarships to six fortunate individuals out of over 720 applicants since 2017, including people as young as 17-years-old and as old as 64-years-old. It is also reported that the applicant pool represents a diverse group in terms of racial, ethnic, gender and sexual identity. Nicole Begay, a 2017 HIV League Scholar writes:

I am so proud to be doing what I do and pursuing my dream of becoming a designer. It has been a struggle throughout these past four years of high school, but I have learned how to stick with what I love no matter what people say and to be determined, motivated, and persevere through anything. I believe that anyone can do anything as long as they put their best efforts forward and never give up. No one can stop me from pursuing my dream except for myself.  –

According to the statistics backed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services along with Secretary’s Minority AID Fund, it was approximated that in 2016 over 39,000 Americans had been newly affected with human immunodeficiency virus, otherwise known as HIV. Roughly half of young adults age 13-24 with the diagnoses were unaware that they had been infected.

The HIV League was founded in 2015 by Daniel Szymczyk, a 2014 graduate of Appalachian State University. Daniel is also a youth counselor who is heavily involved in a number of capacities in servicing the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV.

A few important things to note include the fact that the HIV League Scholarship is reportedly the only scholarship initiative of its kind and scholarship recipients are given the option to decline public recognition.

For more information on the HIV League Scholarship, visit


downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Health Blog with an Obese Editor

Despite being interested in health and wellness for a long time, I must reveal to that I am a 5’7 26-year-old cis woman boasting a Body Mass Index of 36.8. I’m clinically obese and probably the last person who should be online offering her two cents with regards to being healthy.

Yes. I’ve been ordering pizza multiple times a week. Yes. I constantly hit the snooze button whenever my 5 a.m. workout alarm sounded off. And did I mention that my early my 20s have died and gone along with my metabolism? This kind of behavior is without a doubt counterintuitive of the founder of a health blog.

The problem is that during the trauma-drill that was 2018 and a nice chunk of 2017, I simply wasn’t writing.

I stopped believing in my writing and became more and more afraid of sharing my writing with others. I opted to share an extra large pizza instead. Eating helped me cope with rejection, since much of the time I normally spent being active, was spent pointlessly job hunting, networking, and trying to gain ‘real skills’ that I could use to make a decent living, and thus be productive to the world rather than being true to myself. Stepping on the scale did nothing to boost morale, but my Uber Eats account was always there to pick up the slack.

Is there something in your life that you’re either really good at or really enjoy? Imagine feeling like adulthood told you that there’s no longer any time in your day to do it, or that it isn’t important. I won’t speak for you, but I that feeling does not inspire me to take care of myself, let alone go for a jog.

That said, I don’t write for ‘Health Experts United’ or the ‘Perfect Patty Paper’. I created realness of health to tell real stories about real things in my very real life. Instead of abandoning my creations and allowing my humble following to wither away, I will be dedicating 2019 to rebuilding and strengthening my relationship with sleep food writing.

I don’t have any official list of New Year’s resolutions because in today’s scary, polluted, competitive society, being my best and healthiest self will be no more or less of a day by day, inch-by-inch challenge in 2019 than it was in 2018.

As I reacquaint myself with my first love, I encourage you to do the same. Do your work. Do some good. But take some time to do something to affirm who you are.

Happy New Year,



downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

4 Reasons to Volunteer and Then Reflect Afterword

There are a number of reasons why it’s good to reflect on our volunteer experiences just as there are a number of reasons why people volunteer. Below are reasons why we reflect and why it is an important part of community service.

#4) Reflection and other feedback help organizations provide the best services to the community or constituency.

Charity XYZ specializes in providing free lunch to youth in impoverished neighborhoods throughout major cities in the county during the summer. They do this by sending out volunteer delivery drivers to operate lunchtime food trucks. Charity XYZ has been providing the same service to the same areas for over a decade even after cities have been seeing rapid gentrification.

Now, of course, any charity would be prompted to make changes based on heavily monitored social trends, but who’s to say a positive change wasn’t sparked by feedback from a volunteer truck driver who’s been working in a city known for its low income Latino population when he notices that for the last five years many of the “kids” coming to his truck have been college interns and young stay‑at‑home moms living in the new upscale condos nearby?

Reflection gives us the opportunity to provide organizations with more in‑depth insight on the effectiveness of their volunteer approach.

#3) Serving others helps put your own circumstances into perspective.

It isn’t very kind to downplay anyone’s struggles, but with that said, spending a few hours working with a person who’d feel lucky just to get one meal a day might make that super cool iPhone upgrade seem a little less significant. It is widely understood that we don’t realize how fortunate we are until we witness others who are experiencing much worse. Reflection helps reiterate this idea.

Sometimes volunteering isn’t always about privilege‑checking. Sometimes our lives can be really stressful or totally uneventful and volunteering may provide a therapeutic escape. Reflection may help you realize this and prompt you to volunteer more!

#2) Reflection helps keep us humble.

Imperfection is a part of being human. Not everyone is out to help others and, likewise, not every do‑gooder is a saint. It would be easy to assume that anyone willing to devote their time and energy to a good cause has to be completely selfless, virtuous and wise. That isn’t always the case.

Many reflection surveys ask volunteers what they’ve learned or how their experience has inspired them. It is important for people to understand that serving others is a mutual learning experience. We work on ourselves when we work on others.

In addition to helping the community, volunteering and non‑for‑profit work is a great way to build skills, knowledge AND your resume. This is all great, but issues in the community don’t cease just because Jenny finally got into that Sociology Ph.D. program on the other side of the country. It’s called ‘community service’ because it’s about the community.

#1) Doing good can make you feel so good that you HAVE to share it with someone.

This reason is hard to explain if you’ve never gone out and worked in your community. Community service is just as much worth the Facebook and Instagram share as that trip to the beach or a night out with friends. Whether you were required or you signed up by choice, there’s nothing like the feeling you get from doing something good and productive.

Reflecting opens up the opportunity to connect with like‑minded individuals and teach others about the benefits of volunteering.

Senior Companionship is a Job and a Valuable Skill

When we learn someone is  a licensed direct care worker, it is often assumed that all of their clients are bed-bound, terminally ill, or otherwise 100% dependent on someone else helping them carry out  ADLs. For the most part, it is true that if a client is in need of long-term care or home health services, there are likely at least one or two daily tasks they absolutely cannot perform without assistance. If an aide works 8 hours for a bed-bound client who wears adult diapers, they can count on having to clean and change them at least twice (and diapering 150+ lbs of fragile dead weight is not as easy as one might think).

But there are some cases that don’t require as much heavy lifting and backbreaking as they may require some softer skills, such as active listening and empathy. Senior companionship is a real skill and a real job and that fact are justified both by science, social study and by basic human nature.

Firstly, companionship can very easily treat depression. According to the Center for Disease Control, 13.5% of older adults qualifying for home healthcare suffer from depression and more cases may go undiagnosed due to the misconception that depression is a normal part of aging. Individuals of all ages with depression may suffer to the degree of having a risk of self-harm or being placed on suicide watch by healthcare providers. In many cases, companion’s mere presence each day is making a difference in a person’s life.

Healthcare is one of the most diverse industries in the world in terms of race, ethnicity and nationality in its workers, especially in the United States. Depending on where a healthcare provider is located, a particular health-related job can be nearly monopolized by one or two nationalities of people. For example, in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, the vast majority opexels-photo-247811f home health professionals and paraprofessionals are of African descent. It would be hard to keep your white American client entertained when you two don’t share understanding of the same cultural references (and those come in handy). This cultural barrier only comes second to the commonly large age gaps between aides and their clients. Finding common ground and building a relationship with a client so different from yourself is not impossible, but it doesn’t come easy.

In many other cases, being physically present is only a fraction of the feat. Keeping a client entertained is another element of companionship that should be pointed out. Amateurs and even experienced stand-up comedians find it challenging to keep a room full of people entertained for a whole hour. Imagine having to keep that same room full of people entertained day-after-day for 6 to 9 hours a day. No improv studio is that good. Anyone who has ever worked with an individual with dementia knows that if one fails to tap into some creativity, they can expect to have the conversation. Every single hour. Every single shift. Every single day.

Charisma in a companion is also important for clients still maintaining a relatively high level of physical independence and mental sharpness. Keep them entertained helps with building confidence and further encourages independence and especially mental sharpness.

“Encouraging positive conversation” and providing “emotional support” is a part of most clinical nursing job descriptions as well as healthcare aides’. These companionship skills are important, not just for passing time, but for enhancing a person’s everyday life. Lucky for the shy surgeon, most of his dealings with patients involve them being unconscious.

Featured image by Matthias Zomer


downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Just give up on deodorant this summer…

**Warning: Images will be as gross as this title sounds.**

In my two plus decades of life, I’ve only had two major surgeries. The first was when I was a toddler and my adenoids had to be removed. I was so young that I can only remember what my mother tells me about it. My second major surgery took place at age sixteen amidst learning that I would suffer from a pleasant little condition called hidradenitis suppurativa for the rest of my life.

After a small handful of minor knickings and drainings and antibiotics, my doctor highly recommended that I have the apocrine sweat gland removed from my left armpit (the area in which HS affects me the most). Surgery of any kind can be burdensome, but the bright side in this case was getting a couple days off from school and being excused from gym class for a week. The idea was that removing my sweat gland would significantly reduce the occurrence of painful, golf ball-sized, solid boils in my armpit area.

Two very mild cases. Imagine trying to function with the weight of your arm bearing down on this. (courtesy of AAD)


Eight years have gone by and I still experience minor outbreaks from the incurable HS. Although the cause of the infection is unknown, I did, however, learn about what caused individual outbreaks. These causes included: starchy or heavily seasoned foods, excess body fat, sweat, and even shaving. I also learned that HS affects more females than males and boils have a tendency to pop up during your period.

After I began practicing healthier habits (working out, eating better, tending to my mental health), HS became much less of a problem for me. It wasn’t until recently, when life became a little more stressful than normal, that I experienced one of my most painful outbreaks yet.

Once life calmed itself, I temporarily stopped shaving and I avoided paprika like it was poison ivy, I gained normal use of of my arm back in less than two weeks (outbreaks become so large and painful, some people need to wear a sling). Everyday, I used a non-soap cleanser and treated the affected area with tea tree oil and skipped on deodorant and I noticed that even after sweating puddles in the summer heat for hours, I smelled like a fresh stick of spearmint gum! Now, I rarely bother with deodorant.

I am a feminine woman. I care a lot about hygiene. I like to leave a pleasant fragrance behind. However, I am also able to decipher between what is essential to your health (like bathing), and what is really a standard set by society and sometimes a luxury many people don’t have (like wearing cologne or deodorant).

Yes, like you, my concern when first taking on this practice was smell. Anyone who’s been to liberal arts college or any alternative music festival knows of the smell of which I’m referring; not need to elaborate. If that is the case and HS is still a problem, here’s a few tips I’ll leave you with:

  • Wash the affected area with a gentle, non-soap cleanser
  • Cleaning the area before and treat with tea tree oil or rubbing alcohol before bed (be careful of broken skin)
  • Wear a large bandage over the area during the day, if possible (to avoid irritation from clothing)
  • And lastly, if the affected area is your axillary (armpit), put on a very thin layer of deodorant
  • If you are going deodorant-free, carry a small bottle of oil with and reapply midday

If you’re not a heavy sweater, try going without deodorant on a day when you’re at home all day or won’t be very active. Just apply tea tree oil instead. You, too, can smell like a candy cane in July.


(Featured image by Brooke Cagle)

Shameless Plugging!!! (1st Edition)

I interrupt everyone’s regularly scheduled weekend plans to ask for your support for a dear, dear friend.

Fellow UNC Asheville alumnus, Yaw, is set to attend the Queer Youth Leading in The South (QYLTS) Action Camp , and it looks like he needs our help.

Surround yourself with people who don’t themselves TOO seriously.

Yaw and I met when he was a freshman in college. He went from being a mentee, to being my best friend, to being one of my biggest role models (seriously, this guy is the coolest). Since being out since 2013, he has educated and dedicated himself to social justice work and simply couldn’t contain himself when he told me about his invitation to QYLTS Action Camp.I am truly proud of the man he has become (and still coming to terms with him being much cooler than me). This summer is only the beginning of a long list of great things to come from my good friend.

I ask that you please help my friend make this opportunity a reality. He is accepting donations here.

roh wishes you the best, Yaw!


Yaw’s campaign
Information about QYLTS Action Camp
A great article written by Yaw


downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

So Here I Am, Spitting In A Tube For 5 Minutes..

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been interested in culture, heritage and the things that make us all unique. As an African-American, it’s disappointing to face the reality that knowledge of my African family history will never reach farther back than my great grandparents (for most of us, knowledge barely surpasses our grandparents). My resourcefulness and love of history led me to discover my Native American (Haliwa-Saponi) roots, but I was always curious to learn more.

I finally gave in and purchased a DNA test kit which promises to give me answers to all my questions about my identity. Not only will my ethnic makeup be broken down, but I will also learn about my physical traits and diseases I’m more or less likely to carry. I’m excited and anxious at the same time. Imagine having a laundry list of all the diseases you have an 80% chance of dying from..

In a little over a month I should have my results. In the meantime, I’m enjoying this process as a nice conversation starter.



downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.