Saturday, October 3, 2009

youth outreach in Indianapolis

Hello, world! My name is Oliver Danni Green and I'm a member of Team Indianapolis. My service placement is at the Damien Center, the largest HIV/AIDS service agency in Indiana. My job as Prevention Outreach Coordinator gives me the freedom to partner with allied community organizations and offer prevention services to them. Since I’m always excited about finding creative ways to offer services, this is great for me because each organization has different needs and I get to work with them to figure out how I can serve them best, rather than taking a cookie-cutter approach and trying to do the exact same thing for everybody.

One of the organizations I have begun partnering with is the Indiana Youth Group. This organization has been around since 1987, providing services and a safe space for youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities. IYG has been stepping up their efforts to provide HIV and STD prevention information to the youth they serve, and they are doing an excellent job of it! I’ve been so impressed by how much information the youth at IYG already know, and unfortunately they are not learning it in their schools – when I ask them where they learned about this, they always tell me they learned it at IYG and that nobody is talking to them about it in school.

Recently, IYG held a benefit concert featuring the Athens Boys Choir – a one-transman hip-hop/spoken-word artist named Katz from Athens, GA – and an open mike for the IYG youth. Katz is one of my favorite performers, and he did a wonderful job of making the show about celebrating the youth and the work of IYG. Everyone involved with this event was just incredible – the youth who performed, the staff who put the event together, the folks who donated space for the event, and the community members who came out to support the benefit.

This was exciting for me because it was my first opportunity to do outreach at a community event as a representative of AmeriCorps and the Damien Center! I brought a big rolly-bucket of condom kits, lube, dental dams, female condoms, awareness pendants, and lots of pamphlets. They gave me a table to sit at with all the supplies, and when people came to my table I would offer them free stuff and answer any questions they had. I got to talk with lots of youth that night and, interestingly enough, the most frequent response to my presence was something like “Thank you so much for being here; it’s really great what you’re doing...but, personally, I’ve chosen not to have sex yet, I’m not ready.” These are youth who, because of their involvement at IYG, have learned enough accurate information about sexual activity to make the decision to postpone it without judgment. Of those who did help themselves to the free supplies, the most popular item was the dental dams – and, knowing that oral sex is the activity people are most likely to engage in without protection since it’s perceived as a lower risk, I’m always THRILLED to see people so excited about supplies specifically for the purpose of safer oral sex!

Overall, it was a great experience. I look forward to many more opportunities to serve with the Indiana Youth Group and to work with other organizations to offer this kind of prevention outreach in ways that best support the populations they serve!

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