I decided to volunteer for PPO’s Community Education program because I enjoy encouraging people to have fun while they learn, and I thought my background and experiences would be a good match . You see, I’m a science nerd, and I loved doing my grad work teaching in anatomy and researching in reproductive physiology. Within the first few hours of SAP training, I became aware of just how little I knew. [“Hmm,” I said to myself, “This is a lot more complicated than boners and birth control.”]
SAP training was enlightening,uncomfortable at times, and incredibly important in appreciating the attitudesand questions that will be encountered in representing PPO in educational orpublic settings. I did not realize until that time how little I had actuallythought about relationships and sexuality, and how minimal a grasp I had ofwhat others may be going through in their journeys.
I love how excited people are to learnabout their reproductive systems, and it alarms me how little attention hasbeen paid to this in some settings. It often seems like people assume that the youthin their lives are getting their information on sexual health from a reliablesource, but no one is that source themselves. That’s why programs like PPO CommEd and Insight Theatre are so very important—when you give people the languageto talk about sexuality, give them the tools to find reliable information, andencourage communication, the emotional and physical outcomes are necessarilyimproved. It’s been shown in dozens of studies published in peer-reviewedliterature. [“Yay, science!”( *jazzhands*)]
Since I started with PPO’s Comm Ed team,I’ve been able to engage youth and adults in discussion and education aboutsexual health and reproduction. I have been able to represent PPO at localevents as a kiosk volunteer. I’ve helped with the anatomy training of theInsight Theatre youth. I’ve even given condoms to some hilarious seniorcitizens who were concerned about their “feisty” grandchildren and who wereastounded to hear that STI rates among seniors are high. I have never had a boringmoment in these experiences, and I continue to learn new things and appreciatehow valuable the PPO staff and volunteers are.
As I’ve learned from my time with PPO sofar, sometimes you can give an answer, sometimes you lend an ear, sometimes you need to look it up and get back to them, and sometimes Googling something will give you nightmares. I know I still have a lot to learn,and I can’t know what others have been through or are experiencing, but I can sure do my best to make them feel like their feelings are valid and that there is a place to go where staff and volunteers will not judge and will try their best to provide the information and support that’s needed. And if that fails, I can sing the prostate song.
By Lindsay Patrick