Core Training: Teaching Inclusivity

By Patrick Morawski, Summer Outreach Coordinator

As a new summer student I recently attended YouthCO Core Training which is a mandatory (but fun) program for all new volunteers, staff, and board members.  I was asked to write an overview for the Post on my experiences with the program… so here it is!

Core Training is something our staff and volunteers need to complete in order to move forward in our organization, and to actually be qualified to volunteer at YouthCO.   Participants must complete the condensed 16 hour Core Training session that happens on the weekend.  The program generally covers everything you need to know about YouthCO; our values, our approaches, and our programs. It is also a chance to meet YouthCO staff and new volunteers in a weekend meant to build community and inclusion.

Core Training also informs our volunteers about sexually transmitted infections and specifically focuses on HIV and Hep-C. We were given the opportunity to see YouthCO’s famous HIV 101 workshop that is delivered in high schools across the lower mainland. This was led by Ainsley and Tasha from YouthCO’s sexual health program. They made the information concrete and interesting with their frank and funny presentation that de-stigmatized HIV. We also learned about HIV oppression including criminalization, what we can all do to be a community that’s more inclusive for HIV-positive people, and about the advocacy work that YouthCO does for people living with HIV. I thought I knew a lot about HIV, but boy, did I sure learn way more!

On day two we learned more about Hep C with a presentation by Kori , YouthCO’s Harm Reduction Program Manager. I didn’t know much about intravenous drug use and Hep C for that matter. I was surprised to learn how hardy the Hep-C virus actually is. I was fascinated to see how much harm reduction equipment YouthCO supplies, as well as the hands-on approach the facilitators practice ( no we didn’t use drugs, but we  got to play with all the equipment). At first I felt like YouthCO was supporting the use of drugs. Later I understood that as a “harm reduction” program, the main goal was to supply clean equipment to individuals who will be doing drugs anyways. At least this way, they are protected from greater threats such as HIV and Hep C.

Learning about anti-oppression and how it relates to HIV and the social determinants of health was a really important part of the training. We were given a presentation from Mathew and Ivo from YouthCO’s Aboriginal Youth Project on the history of residential schools in Canada and how HIV disproportionally affects Aboriginal Canadians. We also had a work shop by the YouthCO Theatre Troupe that examined oppression in society through interactive games. I found this to be a powerful and at times fun way to learn about the relation between oppression, choice, and potentially negative health outcomes. I really liked this part of the program, because it was very hands on, and it involved the participation of all the volunteers. You really had to give some to get something back!

Staff reassured that YouthCO Is a safe space for everyone, which provides an intimate bonding experience between all groups of people. The volunteers leave with a feeling of enlightenment and greater understanding of real peoples’ troubles and challenges. We finished the workshop with closing wellness games. YouthCO staff always emphasized individual wellness. This was done through exercises that focused on relaxation and built a sense of trust. I left feeling refreshed and informed.

I had a great time at YouthCO’s Core Training. It was a really valuable experience and a great resource for our community of youth. And I almost forgot to mention the amazing breakfast’s and lunch’s the folks at YouthCO provided – so good! What was also neat was the cool certificate we got. It can be used for lots of other locations, and it provides a form of evidence for your knowledge about HIV and Hep-C.

If you’re reading this and know anyone who would want to volunteer, there are tonnes of opportunities available. The next core training will be in October 2011 so email if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading!



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