Chris Norwood (United States of America)


Chris Norwood (United States of America)

“Dig where you stand, and surely you shall find a well.”

Chris Norwood (born 1946) founded Health People, which is located in the South Bronx, New York, and is the largest peer health education and disease prevention organization in the USA. Starting in 1990 as a women’s AIDS prevention program, the organization now provides 3000 people a year in the sickest, poorest area of New York, with men’s, family, and teen HIV programs. It also provides successful asthma, diabetes, and smoking prevention programs, all built by training low-income people affected by chronic disease to become educators and leaders.

“My heart screamed, ‘Not the baby, too!’ Her mother, named Marty, was a wonderful volunteer who later became staff. She had AIDS–not easy to accept, but I really did not think I could stand to know the child and watch her die–which she did a few years later. Within a year, her mother died too, leaving a memory and appreciation that, more than ten years later, remains completely part of me. Marty was extraordinary. She had contracted AIDS as a teenager when her own mother had put her on the street to earn money for the mother’s drugs. Then the mother killed herself while Marty was in jail. Of all the impressive ways that I have seen people extend themselves, I think that Marty’s is the most generous: even while facing her own and her child’s deaths, Marty arranged for a special mass to be said for the repose of her mother. During the times when I’m exhausted and frantic and depressed, I try to keep in mind all the people who have helped us fulfill our mission: the man who spent years in prison–having shot a policeman–who somehow turned himself into the most gentle and inspiring person and helped many kids look to the future. There is our senior coordinator, who started as a client, and was appointed by our governor as the only HIV+ woman on the state AIDS Advisory Council. There are the diabetes peers, some of whom who could barely walk when they started their training, and are now out all over educating the community. And, of course, there are the teens, faithfully coming in to be mentors for younger kids even when some of them are virtually homeless themselves. Again and again, our belief that the community can take positive control of its health–and that people harshly rejected by society can not only go forward, but are outstanding at helping others–is confirmed.”

Health People

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