First off, thank you for being a such a selfless, community-minded rockstar! Secondly, you understand that Gallatin Valley is experiencing a time of unprecedented growth and we are all feeling the effects.

While Bridgercare is able to meet the growing demand for our sexual healthcare services, demand for educational services is quickly outpacing our capacity. While this is very exciting, our single educator cannot currently meeting all requests for lessons at local schools, puberty workshops, and presentations.

Additionally, at this moment in time, our state legislature is showing they do not value and support comprehensive, inclusive, and medically accurate sexual health education. That is why we are counting on YOU to step up and make sure high quality sexual health education is available to all young people and community members who need it!

During Give Big 2021 from 6pm May 6th to 6 pm May 7th, our hope is to raise $100,000 to DOUBLE Bridgercare’s educational capacity! Securing this funding will enable us to expand our programming, hopefully hire a second educator, and better serve our growing community and rural schools across south central Montana.

We wanted to share a few stories with you to show you just how your gift can make an extraordinary impact:

 

Jocie’s Story

Hi! My name is Jocie and I am a Peer Educator. One of the things I love most about being a Peer Educator is the positive impact this group has on the community. Through my role as a Peer Educator, I have seen firsthand how this organization enriches those around us.

One moment, in particular, comes to mind when thinking of the impacts Peer Ed has. Last year, before COVID, I was helping run a Puberty Clinic at Bridgercare. This is a day we host, where parents and children alike come to BridgerCare to learn all about puberty and what to expect. The children get a gender-inclusive education on the social, emotional, and physical changes that occur during puberty and the parents get to learn about how to be the best parents during this time of change.

On this particular day we had split up into smaller groups and I was teaching a group of 4th graders the ins and outs of puberty. I was walking them through the basics of periods, showing them how to use pads and tampons, and explaining the biology behind periods.

There was one girl in particular who stood out to me. She had been pretty shy and quiet for the majority of the day. As we talked through periods I noticed she became a lot more interested. As we began our medically accurate discussion she began asking questions and engaging in our conversation. As she learned more and more you could see her getting more and more relaxed and more and more relieved. It was obvious that after our lesson, she was so much more comfortable, not only with our group but with the puberty content.

For the rest of the day, she was super interactive and excited, and she learned a lot. This was one of those moments where I actually saw the impact Peer Ed’s work can have. I came away from that day knowing that at least one little girl was going to be that much more comfortable with herself as she entered puberty and we had possibly made that transition slightly easier for her. That day proved to me how valuable the Peer Education Program truly is.

 

The Anonymous Question Box 

Recently we taught birth control at a local high school and had plans to return the next day to teach STIs. While we were not explicitly asked to talk about consent, we do our best to throw tidbits of information about the importance of consent into all of our lessons. At the end of the first day we had this question in our anonymous question box, “Is it consent if you say no, but they keep pressuring you until you give in?”

When we started class the next day, we started by answering this and our other anonymous questions. At first I just gave a short, “No, it isn’t consent if a person feels pressured because their “no” should be respected the first time and if it isn’t being respected, they don’t feel like they can actually say no.”

I was about to move on and then realized that this would be a grave mistake because if someone was asking, they were likely doing so based on a personal experience. So instead, I spent a couple more minutes giving some of the basics of consent and wrote the Help Center’s phone number on the board as a resource for anyone that has ever had something done to them that was not consensual. We then moved on to talk about STIs.

At the end of class, one of the students went up to the teacher. I didn’t want to interrupt as it seemed like a private conversation, but the teacher asked me a question about resources for sexual assault and I again mentioned what a great resource the Help Center was because they have advocates who can help support sexual assault survivors of all ages. I also mentioned that it can be very difficult for a person who has been pressured into sex to know how to process it because this is usually happening within a relationship – with someone you’re dating – who you expect to care about you.

The student agreed and I could feel the hurt and confusion coming from them. I then removed myself from the conversation as I could tell this student felt most comfortable talking to their teacher about it, but I was glad that our lessons were at least able to at least get the conversation started. Everyone deserves to be supported and no one should have to go through a traumatic experience like assault alone.

 

 

Simple Moments Saving Lives

Sex Ed is about prevention, making it difficult to measure the impact of what we teach. There’s simply no way to know how many unplanned pregnancies or STIs we may have helped prevent, or how much anxiety we may have saved a group of youth by answering their seemingly endless questions about puberty.

However, a few years ago, we were teaching anatomy at a local high school. Among other things, we talked about how testicular cancer is the most common cancer in males ages 15-35. We talked about the importance of testicular self-exams and how to do one. And I didn’t think I would ever hear anything more about it.

Except a couple weeks later, I did. It made it’s way back to me that one of the students went home, did a self-exam and found a lump. A visit to a doctor revealed that it was in fact testicular cancer.

I never heard the outcome of the story, but I do know that testicular cancer is highly curable if caught early, so I’m hopeful. And now when I teach about how to do testicular and breast self-exams I do so with renewed passion, knowing that these simple exams can truly save lives.

When you make a gift to Bridgercare, you change lives throughout south central Montana. You ensure that everyone access to the education, care, and resources they need.

 

Give Big is 6 pm May 6th – 6 pm May 7th. Thank you in advance for being a champion for the Gallatin Valley!