Not your wedding crasher’s YMCA

Yesterday we visited the YMCA in downtown Kingston. Personally, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All we knew going into the morning was that we would be working with 40 12-16 year old boys. The purpose of our visit was to talk to them about sex education and conflict resolution. We started out a little rocky with some miscommunications about what activity was supposed to come first. We had planned out the meeting last Friday, but didn’t go over it before our arrival. With some not so quick decision-making we split the boys up by age.

I was placed with the 12-13 year old boys. I was nervous. I had no idea how we were going to talk to these boys about HIV/AIDS and condom usage. This is a big part of youth development here, but its not something I ever thought I would have to facilitate. Similar to our experience at Rise, we started with ice breakers and energizers. We focused on honesty when playing games that required you to step out if you did follow the direction correctly.

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We talked about sex, HIV/AIDS, condoms like it was normal conversation. I was impressed at how mature these boys were about talking about it and saying words that often make people uncomfortable. It was clear that they knew the information, but its hard to tell if they actually use it.

I didn’t know it until after our session and we had a meeting with the director of the YMCA, but most of the boys have at some point in their lives been involved in violent crimes. I knew they were at risk, but to what extent I had no idea. I was amazed because while some of the boys were resistant I just took it as boys being boys. At no point did I feel threatened or disrespected. I think visiting the YMCA was the best experience I have had in training thus far. I asked if I could stay in Kingston and volunteer there, but only response volunteers are allowed to live in Kingston….maybe I’ll have to do that some day.

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