Some people have to wait a whole lifetime to get their name on a star or billboard; my name is everywhere here in Norman Wells. The river, street signs, mountains, and the school all happen to bear the name Mackenzie (mind you with a different spelling), and I can’t avoid feeling somewhat at home. From our arrival, the staff of Mackenzie school is very accommodating, even picking us up from our hotel before the workshop so that we won’t have to lug Ruby, our workshop suitcase, to the school. I was really impressed by how excited the Foxes were when we began explaining the workshop to them. It’s always encouraging to have a positive response right off the bat, especially from students who have not necessarily taken performance arts. It tells us that the unconventional use of fine arts to open dialogue about sexual health is relevant (and fun!) for young women. We’re at a point in the focus testing where we are consistently getting a good response from the Foxes, and have not had suggestions to change the workshop so much as to add to it and make it longer. Although we could cut corners and be “content” with the material, Candice is very meticulous and wants to make sure the overwhelmingly positive response from the Foxes will continue to be consistent in the smaller communities. Besides, we also needed to focus test our new logo and it really never hurts to go the extra mile… literally.
This is my third time peer leading the workshop, and although I know what the major components are, every session is different because the girls ultimately lead it. We focused this time on different methods of birth control and STI prevention during “Myth or Truth,” because many of the Foxes knew the terms but were a bit confused about the symptoms of various infections.
Did you know that syphilis doesn’t hurt? Neither did I! One of the girls brought it up during the student led sex-ed class and after speaking with Candice, turns out that the infection causes a small painless blister on the genitals within three days to three months of being contracted. Not only that, but it is also curable with antibiotics so most cases of syphilis (whether identified by a health professional or not) do not progress to the later stages because we use antibiotics so often to cure other non-related illnesses before the infection matures. That being said, syphilis is incredibly dangerous and having unprotected sex is always a HUGE risk – which the girls emphasized during their presentation, making us senior Foxes proud. Talk about learning on the job!
The foxes also took to the body mapping with a similar enthusiasm, and despite various environmental distractions (i.e. the door being fixed while Nancy was leading the visualizations) came out with some beautiful finished products. They seemed to enjoy the more introspective part of the workshop because it allowed them to express themselves without the expectation of explanation. Foxes are given the opportunity to explain their favourite parts of their body maps, as much or as little as they feel comfortable with after the mapping is over. Part of the visualization script includes a line that specifically tells the Foxes that they are the only ones who need to understand their body map, because it is to help them identify their own body cues and future goals. This takes a lot of the pressure to “perform” off the shoulders of the girls, which ultimately keeps the space safe. When research begins, Candice will be interviewing the participants one-on-one, which will allow her to map the progress of the participant, as well as the effectiveness of the workshop.
I’m really grateful to be able to meet so many strong young women across the North. Norman Wells has been an eye opener in terms of my job as Peer Educator (i.e.: a lucky teen who gets to do drama all day and work with inspiring young women to help them reach their full potential), but also as a human being. The kindness of others is overwhelming in the communities. I’m so glad to be able to give back.
More and more FOXY Everyday,
— by Makenzie Zouboules, FOXY Peer Educator