As a volunteer in my first six months with PPO, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to share a bit about my experiences and why volunteering with PPO is so meaningful for me.
It was the morning of the day I was scheduled to participate in my first PPO community education workshop. I woke up at 7am to find an email from a fellow (significantly more experienced) volunteer saying that she would be unable to make it as she was feeling very under the weather. This meant that the workshop I was originally scheduled to observe was now mine to facilitate! Being someone who is very enthusiastic but very new to community education, I emailed Courtney in a (slight) panic saying that I would attempt to facilitate the workshop on my own, but that if there was anyone else who could step in last minute to be my co-facilitator, this person would be my hero! Courtney worked her magic and in stepped a wonderful placement student who was also new to facilitating this workshop. The student and I met at PPO for 10 minutes to go over the outline before we were off to the school.
Incidences of PPO facilitation training where fellow to-be-volunteers acted as extremely disruptive and defiant student audiences flashed through my mind during the drive to the school (yikes!). However, my co-facilitator and I would find that the PPO volunteers were actually a much more difficult audience than the wonderful group of students we would engage that day.
The students were bright, had lots of great comments and questions for us, and seemed to genuinely enjoy and learn from the dialogue we engaged in that day. Both of us left the workshop feeling very rewarded and I know that I felt significantly more confident in my own facilitation skills and very well-supported as a new volunteer with PPO.
Though I have been a volunteer with PPO for only a short time now, this particular experience and general involvement in training and other activities highlight for me many meaningful aspects of PPO’s values and work. I have come to feel a great sense of community within PPO, and not just because of the generosity of those willing to jump in last minute to help out, but also because a pro-choice philosophy, sex-positive, and queer-positive language are all part of the culture of the organization. For me, PPO represents a safe space which runs counter to the larger culture outside of the organization where sex-negative, homophobic, and sexist messaging feels ubiquitous.
To me, being a community educator means opportunities to battle against narrow depictions and misinformation that surrounds human sexuality and engage diverse audiences in a dialogue around developmentally crucial topics that unfortunately are not often discussed in a sex-positive and affirming manner. As a social worker who has recently emerged from school and started navigating the working world, I use much of the knowledge and skills I’ve learned in my work with PPO and also build upon these skills in my volunteer career. I currently work in the field of child and youth mental health and volunteering with PPO has helped me to integrate my thinking around human sexuality and mental well-being.
Overall, I am very happy to be part of a dynamic feminist community made up of passionate volunteers who do such important work and also learn so much from the communities with which they engage. I look forward to becoming more involved in a variety of activities and to getting to know more of the amazing volunteers who contribute so much to PPO’s work!
Volun-peer Stories is our new monthly column, written by our awesome volunteers. If you'd like to contribute, let Hailey know!
In May, our story was written by Lindsay Thomson.