Monday, November 16, 2009

MPowerment motivates activism in queer youth

By Frances Dinger

Share this article Published: Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Updated: Thursday, November 12, 2009

Via MPowerment

MPowerment volunteers assemble hundreds of safe-sex kits annually.
Capitol Hill has a lot to offer the adult LGBTQ community, be it through clubs, bars or bathhouses, but this leaves some members of the community asking what there is for queer youth.

MPowerment is part of the answer to the question.

The group has been with Lifelong Aids Alliance since 2001 as a program specifically for 18-22 year olds in Seattle’s LGBTQ community. The organization is modeled after prevention programs adopted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and offers fun youth activities as well as outreach to help educate the community and prevent the spread of HIV and STDs.

“Outreach is a big part of what we do,” says Ken Myers, Mpowerment outreach coordinator. “It’s really about going out into the community and sharing information.”

Mpowerment has a three-part approach to its outreach, focusing on venue specific events, community education in street outreach and the distribution of educational materials. Venue specific outreach sends members of its Core Team—the youth team responsible for planning MPowerment events— to 18-and-older nights at local businesses like Neighbors, where volunteers answer questions and hand out free safe-sex packets that include condoms, lubricant and information on disease prevention.

“I know what we do is helpful,” says Mehron Abdollmohammadi, junior English major and Core Team member since January 2009. “Sometimes we’ll go to an outreach venue we’ve been to before and someone will recognize one of us and say, ‘You’re that guy who gave me a condom. Because of that, I used one.’”

Street outreach tries to reach homeless queer youth, offering safe-sex packets and hygiene products, but the group is looking to offer more resources to street youth.

Since September, Myers and Donny Gerke, MPowerment supervisor and Seattle University alumnus, have been aiding the Core Team in putting together a resource guide for queer homeless youth. They are currently editing and reviewing the information before it is sent to print. Once the review process is complete, MPowerment plans to distribute the new pamphlet at the same time as a pamphlet on STDs other than HIV.

“[The pamphlet] could have been very doom and gloom if we let it,” Myers says. “We wanted to make this material empowering.”

The pamphlet for queer homeless youth was designed by three Core members and was funded by the Jeffirs Wood Foundation, a private foundation that is committed to providing opportunities for street youth and impoverished individuals. The pamphlet will include information on shelters, safe sex education and opportunities open to homeless youth.

“There is always a need for more resources,” Abdollmohammadi says. He feels there is a general deficiency in resources for queer youth in Seattle, but what the community needs most is access to comprehensive information. The group distributes safe-sex information to local coffee shops and has also found more creative ways to educate the community on HIV prevention.

One of MPowerment’s educational tools is “Censor This,” a quarterly zine. The publication features visual art as well as prose and poetry relating to LGBTQ issues and, like the rest of the groups outreach, focuses strongly on HIV prevention.

MPowerment is still negotiating its contract for the next two years. Gerke says the organization wants to extend its outreach into South Seattle. The organization recently received funds from King County because of its drug and alcohol education program, which addresses the increased sexual risk when sexual encounters are combined with substance abuse.

No comments:

Post a Comment