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The Hartford News

June 30 – July 7, 2011

They Believe‌in Tabor House BY SUZAN BIBISI Most people would assume two 20-something women with the whole world in front of them would spend their summer backpacking in Europe, sharing a house in the Hamptons or maybe hiking in the Rockies, embracing freedom and the unknown. But two female Hoosiers, perhaps Generation Y versions of Thelma and Louise, chose a road trip. Not just any old road trip. They are visiting 16 states - Connecticut among them - giving back through selfless and unsolicitedacts of hard work to help others in need. Egle "Eggy" Vaitiekute, 23, and Sylwia (pronounced Silvia) Pilat, 22, are the founders of the We Believe Project, an ambitious summer program to improve the lives of fellow Americans by performing and inspiring community-based volunteer work. On Monday, they brought their energy and skills and their motto: Change Hope Inspiration, to Tabor House, a Hartford non-profit founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph that provides housing for men who live with HIV/AIDS. Most, if not all of these men, would be homeless without Tabor House as an option. Silwia, a senior at Purdue University Calumet in Indiana, majoring in hospitality, and Eggy, who graduated from PUC in December with a degree in mark-

Egle "Eggy" Vaitiekute and Sylwia Pilat are touring the country doing volunteer work wherever they go. On Monday, they painted the kitchen of Tabor House in Hartford. (Hart photo) ing and communications, chose Tabor House on their Pennsylvania to Georgia tour based on its website content and a conversation with Sister Gerturde, the volunteer coordinator. Before Hartford, they gave bike rides to visually impaired people in New Hampshire and organized the costume closet at a camp for children with life-threatening illnesses in Maine.On Tuesday, they crossed the state to Stamfordwhere they volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. They mapped out a route with their GPS as their guide, researched non-profits in states along the route,

checked out websites, and called the non-profits that appealed to them. They called 30 agencies and interviewed the 15 that called back. They said they were interested in Tabor House because of its mission: to provide a warm, safe, comfortable home to men living with HIV/AIDS who have no job, no place to live and very little personal interactions. They arrived at Tabor House at about 10:30 a.m. Monday in a red Mazda,its back seat crammed with personal supplies for a month-long tour on the road.Sister Gertrude Lanouette,

places like that throughout United States." The 20-year-old Tabor House runs two homes in Hartford, providing food, transportation for medical appointments, referrals to therapy sessions and support groups, an inhouse case manager who provides substance abuse counseling and helps guide residents in their goal of independence and a nurse who pours medications. "The world definitelyneeds more houses like the Tabor House," Sylwia said. "Society would be a lot better andpeople would be directed to the right path." Now in its second summer (last year they visited six states), the project operates on a bare-bones budget, like many of the non-profits they visit. The women saved money for this second trip during the year by working at Red Robin restaurant in their hometown, soliciting sponsorships and getting by with a little help from friends and family. They plan to incorporate their We Believe Project into a non-profit, visit all 50 states in the continental U.S. and bring along high school and college students on their summer breaks to teach them the bene-

fits of volunteering. They hope to enlist millenials and inspire other generations to volunteer and give back to their communities.Although they set out to inspire community service, they were not prepared for a Tabor House resident to be one of the people they persuaded to volunteer. "One of the guys was so interested in volunteering," Eggy said. "He said he would like tohelp someone else, like with Habitat for Humanity.It was so amazing. He doesn't have a job and he wanted to help someone else. He's going through so much, not thinking of himself, but he's thinking about others." "We just did not want to leave." We Believe Project: To join the We Believe Project, provide the organization with information on charity and volunteer opportunities,or follow the women as they continue to volunteer this summer, visit www.WeBelieveProject.org A video of Sister Ann Kane, executive director of Tabor House, talking with Eggy and Silwia, is posted on the website.

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Tabor House Continued from page 2 Tabor House volunteer coordinator, readily agreed to host the team, assigning them to paint the walls of the second floor kitchen, which was showing the wear of many meals made over the years. "It was a joy working with such enthusiastic and hardworking young women. They did a fantastic job and we were blessed to have them among us at Tabor House," said Sr. Gertrude. The goal of Tabor House is to help residents achieve physical, psychological, social and spiritual health, said Sister Ann Kane, executive director of Tabor House. "The ultimate goal for residents is independent living." As the kitchen glimmered with a fresh coat of paint, the volunteers sat down to dinner with residents of Tabor House and engaged them in conversations about themselves. The residents reciprocated. "We were all talking as if we were a family,"Sylwia said. "Everyone made me feel so comfortable and I loved meetingeveryone.I understand better the importance of providing the services that Tabor Housedoes and wish I could get to see more

They Believe in Tabor House  

Story published in the Hartford News.

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