Right across the street from Norris Square Park, at 149 West Susquehenna Ave., sits a small but powerful organization dedicated to helping residents in Philadelphia’s LGBT community. Galaei Philly provides health services such as HIV testing, counseling and sexual health education with a special focus on those of Latin origin. The organization’s mission is to bring awareness to the community through its programs and by hosting events throughout the year. Jorian Rivera (pictured above), a counselor at Galaei, spoke about the kinds of events and services the organization provides to the community.
What does Galaei do to help the community?
Well, Galaei has many programs within the organization. There’s the Trans Equity Project which is run for trans by trans. So, we help a lot of trans identifying folks. When they need a name change, we help them to mark the change on their ID. We also have something called the Treasure Chest, a weekly event, which is pretty much a clothing drive where transgender folks and non-binary folks can come in and pick out clothes that really represent themselves. We also have a youth program which is run between the ages of 13 to 24. We help a lot of youth with resume-building, job applications, college and high school. We even have one-on-one therapy sessions so they can, you know, talk to somebody because sometimes they can’t really go home and talk. We also have an HIV testing team where we do a lot of HIV and STI screenings as far as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.
Galaei markets itself as a queer Latin social justice organization, do you specifically target the Latino community?
We do have a specific target, which is gay Latino men, but we bring in anyone who wants to come in and get tested for free. We open our doors to anybody. We do provide bilingual services.
You have events like the transgender clothing drive, do you have any other events like that throughout the year?
We constantly have events going on. We’re going to be doing something called a community barbecue where we invite the community to come, hang out and see the space and just have a great time.
How are you trying to help the community and families?
Well, we did this campaign in the community, and honestly, it was just to shed light on the meaning of being HIV positive and we learned that Latino families are a little more accepting to people who are HIV positive.
How do you feel your personal relationship, as a Latino LGBT member, is with the community?
With my relationship to the community, I’ve always been a person to support and help those who need it. Ever since I was young, I’ve always felt like I needed to fix things. So when I was diagnosed with HIV at 19 years old, I told myself that I will never let anyone go through this alone. Cause I did the process alone and no one should have to go through that. So I dedicated myself to anybody who was diagnosed with HIV or anything of that nature to be there for them so that they always have a shoulder and a helping hand to support them.
-Text and images by Jada Davis.