Stu­dents are teach­ers on lengthy Guyana trip

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FRONT PAGE - CRYS­TAL OAG

Mem­bers of Queen’s Health Out­reach (QHO) hosted a Valen­tine’s Day-themed fundraiser Tues­day to sup­port peer-based health ed­u­ca­tion in Guyana, South Amer­ica.

QHO is a stu­dent-run or­ga­ni­za­tion from Queen’s Univer­sity fo­cused on both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional health ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives. It has a num­ber of pro­grams in Kingston, Guyana, the Cana­dian North, Belize and more that de­liver peer-based ed­u­ca­tion for com­mu­nity needs.

Tues­day’s fundraiser was made up of a booth lit­tered with candy bags, roses and stick­ers for sale in the Queen’s Ath­let­ics and Re­cre­ation Cen­tre. The Valen­tine’s Day-themed prod­ucts were sold to help raise money for the an­nual seven-week Guyana trip, which will start this May.

Or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect to make about $200 in prof­its be­cause all of the candy was do­nated from the Gro­cery Check­out Fresh Mar­ket on cam­pus, said Shan­nen Rowe, one of the pro­gram direc­tors for the Guyana ini­tia­tive of the QHO.

She said all of the funds will be put to­wards a bud­get of around $30,000 to help pay for flights, ac­com­mo­da­tions, teach­ing sup­plies, food and out­reach once they are there.

“Guyana has one of the high­est sui­cide rates per capita, so a lot of what we fo­cus on is men­tal health and sui­cide, de­pres­sion, aware­ness, break­ing down the stigma, and we also help pro­vide stu­dents with re­sources in their com­mu­nity,” Me­gan But­ler, an­other pro­gram di­rec­tor for the Guyana ini­tia­tive, said.

But­ler and Rowe are both thirdyear stu­dents at Queen’s who be­came in­volved in the QHO in their first year of univer­sity. They both at­tended the Guyana trip last year, be­fore be­com­ing pro­gram direc­tors.

“The trip was for sure a lot of ups and downs, be­cause you are there for seven weeks, so al­most two months with this group of stu­dents and you learn a lot from it be­cause it is peer to peer,” Rowe said. “You learn a lot from the stu­dents, as much as you are there to talk and teach them about it.”

The Guyana ini­tia­tive is just one part of the QHO.

Ac­cord­ing to the QHO web­page, the Out­reach trains 42 peer-ed­u­ca­tors to give a va­ri­ety stu­dents health-based ed­u­ca­tion. The ed­u­ca­tion can be on any­thing from pu­berty to self-es­teem to spe­cific topics in the com­mu­ni­ties they are in, like with the Guyana ini­tia­tive.

“We are of a sim­i­lar age to a lot of the stu­dents that we teach, like they are in Grade 6 up to train­ing col­lege, so they can be like 18, 19, 20 years old, and youth groups that might even be older than that,” But­ler said.

“We find it re­ally ben­e­fi­cial that it is much more of a dis­cus­sion­based ed­u­ca­tion with open con­ver­sa­tions, so we can re­ally fo­cus on what the stu­dents want to learn, what’s rel­e­vant to them and do our lessons based off of that.”

Rowe said stu­dents can re­late to peer-ed­u­ca­tors about the health topics more so than their teach­ers would be able to.

“I know when I was in school and I had peer-ed­u­ca­tors come in from the univer­sity near my school to talk to us about health, it just gave us a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive that was hon­estly re­ally use­ful,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the web­page, QHO’s peer-ed­u­ca­tors work through­out the year with nine dif­fer­ent schools in the Kingston area.

The lo­cal pro­gram teaches mostly in el­e­men­tary schools, but also in some al­ter­na­tive class­rooms like youth groups and shel­ters, Rowe said.

But­ler said a lot of the train­ing the peer-ed­u­ca­tors re­ceive are from pro­fes­sors at Queen’s who spe­cial­ize in ap­pli­ca­ble sub­jects. They also meet ev­ery Sun­day for other topic-based train­ing.

She said that sim­i­lar to the trip to Guyana, other QHO ini­tia­tives raise funds and ap­ply for grants and school fund­ing to sup­port the out­reach pro­grams.

The pro­grams are al­most en­tirely run by stu­dents.

“It’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing be­cause ba­si­cally the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion be­ing run by stu­dents means you kind of have the power to make the changes that you want with­out hav­ing to go through a big process,” she said. “The NGO can kind of just shape with the year and mould into how the stu­dents see fit, based on their ex­pe­ri­ences.”

CRYS­TAL OAG/FOR THE WHIG-STAN­DARD

Shan­nen Rowe, from left, Liz Bir­chart, Brit­ney Bax­ter, De­laney Ran­dle and Me­gan Bul­ter are mem­bers of the Queen’s Health Out­reach, fundrais­ing for the Guyana ini­tia­tive.

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