While watching our very own Funding and Partnerships Coordinator, Victoria, lead an interview featured on CBC News’s The National where she discussed the importance of sex-ed and our sexual health services, I felt an immense sense of pride to be working for an NGO that really makes a difference in the community. Since the 2005 Secondary School Reform which effectively removed sex education from the school curriculum in Quebec, regular school teachers who don’t always have the expertise necessary to properly educate young people have been providing informal sex-ed classes. It has become abundantly clear that projects such as our peer-based sex-ed program, The Sense Project, now active in 13 schools are more essential than ever. As Victoria puts it, “Training is so important! You would never send an untrained math teacher into a classroom.” This lack of education is perhaps reflected in the Institut National de Santé Publique’s 2013-2014 statistical report on Québec sexual health, which shows that the Chlamydia incidence rate within the 15 to 24 demographic has steadily increased. Nevertheless, sex-ed is not only a matter of educating youth about STDs, issues concerning consent, body image, sexual orientation, cultural sensitivity, quality and gender identity are equally important which is why The Sense Project is so valuable.
While Québec’s provincial government is reviewing its sex-ed policies and deciding on whether to implement its mandatory sex- ed pilot project, programs such as The Sense Project which has developed comprehensive workshops, definitely help fill in the gap.
Every year we raise money for HIV prevention, education, and support services for youth. Ça Marche is more that an annual HIV/AIDS walk; it is vital for the simple fact that funds raised during this time will help finance core programs and services such as the Sense Project!
You can sign up here to join the fundraising team!
We are currently seeking new volunteers for the 2015-16 school year!
Interested in facilitating sex ed workshopswith youth in high schools? Getting involved with the Sense Project at Head & Hands is a fantastic opportunity to learn, grow and support the well-being of youths in Montreal. Be a part of the magic of the Sense Project as we embark on new changes and visioning in this 10th year of sex ed!
About Head & Hands
Head & Hands is a community organization in NDG that services youth aged 12-25 across the city of Montreal. Since 1970, Head & Hands has been committed to the overall health and well-being of youth, providing holistic services and programs. Our approach is harm/risk reductive, holistic and non-judgemental which is especially important for one of our most important programs: The Sense Project.
About The Sense Project
The Sense Project is Head & Hands’ by youth for youth sexual education program. In 2005, sex ed was phased out of the public high school curriculum resulting in a huge gap in youth’s health education. Over the past decade, the Sense Project has been filling that gap with comprehensive, holistic and inclusive sex ed that centers youth and their needs. Our workshops create space for youth to learn about and discuss topics such as anatomies, genders, STIs, consent culture and more. Head & Hands firmly believes that youth have the right to accurate and accessible information in order to make empowered decisions about their health and lives.
Sense Volunteers a.k.a. “Sensies” are the face of the Sense Project. As a Sensie, your role is to contribute to the program by facilitating sex ed workshops and/or supporting the development of the Sense Project. It is especially important to embody the principles of Head & Hands and our approach which means meeting youth where they’re at. Sensies will have the opportunity to participate in an extensive training in which you’ll learn more about sex, Head & Hands’ approach, allyship and how to facilitate workshops for youth. The goal is to help equip you with the tools and resources to be able to do your own reflective learning and then share with your peers.
Interested? Here are the requirements:
New applicants must be aged 25 and under.
Volunteers should be committed to Head & Hands’ principles of anti-oppression, risk reduction, and non-judgment.
Volunteers should have some availability on weekdays during the day. Throughout the school year, your amount of volunteering is highly dependent on your availabilities and the workshop requests made by schools and organizations.
Bilingualism is not mandatory, but it’s an asset! The training will be bilingual (ENG-FR).
It’s also an asset if you have previous animation experience or experience working with youth.
It is mandatory to attend the full volunteer training (dates listed below).
Animators must commit for an entire school year and in taking part in any additional trainings for the Sense Project.
If you meet these criteria, please complete a volunteer form and send it to Gabrielle at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to apply is Monday, August 24th at 10 AM. We’ll then book a short screening interview with prospective volunteers.
If you have any questions, feel free to call Shanice at (514) 481-0277!
Ontario’s new comprehensive sexual education curriculum, revised last year, shows just how much Quebec is lagging when it comes to equipping youth with the information they need to make empowered sexual decisions. Since sex education was effectively removed from the Quebec curriculum in 2005, rates of STIs as well as dating and sexual violence have risen steadily among teens. For the past ten years, youth volunteers trained through Head & Hands’ Sense Project have been working tirelessly to fill the gaps by leading workshops on gender and sexuality, safer sex, and consent to youth in schools, group homes, and CEGEPs.
This year’s most popular workshop explores questions of body and genital diversity, society’s beauty standards, and sexual performance anxiety. According to Sense Project Coordinator Gab, one of the ways through which today’s youth are exposed to unrealistic beauty standards and sexual expectations – and one of the topics they’re most eager to talk about – is porn.
“The reality is, youth are watching porn, so we need to be having frank discussions with them on how a lot of mainstream porn is made,” Gab explains. “It’s a performance and what’s not shown is communication and consent.”
Gab also discusses how porn can impact body image and expectations: “Makeup is used to change the colour of genitals, but our workshops set the record straight: genitalia come in all shapes and sizes, and can range from pale pink to dark brown. Casting, editing, and filming make it so bodies look and perform in a very specific way; so we talk to youth about having realistic expectations of their bodies and their partners’ bodies.
The response to the workshops has been incredibly positive. For many youth, it’s their only opportunity to ask burning questions to peer-educators, knowing they won’t be judged! There’s a strong need for more workshops, but resources are limited. “These days, everyone’s budget is limited, so we don’t always get paid and we’re often underpaid for the workshops we give; but we don’t turn down an opportunity to give much needed sex education for youth, even if we have to do it for free.”
The Sense Project depends on community giving, which means that we need you to help this project expand and reach more youth. As Gab explains, “There’s nothing like seeing the sigh of relief from a youth when you tell them their body is okay.”
My name is Kay and I am this year’s Serve Tournament Coordinator! (Not gonna lie – I practiced saying that a few times in the mirror leading up to my interview for this position.) I am so excited to get to work with the incredible team at Head & Hands to help produce this year’s Serve Tournament, in support of the amaaazing Sense Project!
Given that this is actually the TENTH year of Serve, I figured I’d give you one fact about Serve for every year we’ve been around, and sprinkle in some fun tidbits about me here and there too so we can get to know each other a little better. Ready?
FACT #1: This year’s Serve tournament is taking place Sunday July 26, which is 168 days before the end of the year, and 1+6+8 is 15, and 15 is the age I was when I came out to my little sister (she said “I don’t care what gender they are, I don’t want to think about you kissing *anybody*!!” … fair enough, sis.)
me and my sis!
FACT#2: The Sense Project was created in 2005 in response to the Quebec education reform, which virtually eliminated sexual health education from the high school curriculum. In 2005, I created a patented rag-on-the-end-of-a-broom technique to chase spiders out of a boathouse without having to directly touch them with my hands, which means that Sense and I are all about YOUTH INGENUITY.
FACT#3: Since the beginning of Sense Project, some 300 volunteers have been trained as workshop facilitators, providing holistic and non-judgmental info on everything from sex to how our bodies work to consent to relationships to safer drug and alcohol use. I am also a trained peer sexual health facilitator through this wicked project in Toronto called Empower! Youth and I am super passionate about youth and sexual health promotion.
this is actually my butt.
FACT#4: The Serve Tournament was actually started by a group of restaurant employees to help raise money for Serve and contribute to their community, and it’s been a raging success ever since.
FACT#5: Last year’s Serve tournament raised $40,400 for youth sexual health education!
FACT #6: Head&Hands (perhaps unsurprisingly) is home to a number of Virgos. My dad is a Virgo! So either we are all going to enjoy some brutal puns together or argue about politics. Or maybe both – time will tellllll.
from The Wild Unknown (I covet their tarot!)
FACT#7: On average, Serve participants drink roughly 18 kegs of beer. When a keg of beer is tapped it stays fresh for approximately 12 hours, so even at the end of the long, hot day of volleyball in the sun, our beer is gonna be super tasty! Me, I also stay cool and fresh under pressure and barely sweat at all, so I can assure you I’ll probably smell okay if we are standing next to each other cheering on the teams at Serve.
FACT#8: On another beer-related note, Parc Jeanne Mance, where we hold the tournament every year, has a wild connection to beer making. No really. In 1879, it was actually named by the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain as a significant source of this psychoactive plant called henbane that before the German Beer Purity Law (a real thing too, still in use today by German beer makers!) was used as a flavouring agent in beer! I don’t know how to connect this to me really except to tell you that I am the sort of nerd who got really excited about learning this fact.
FACT #9: Last year, our hosts at Serve were Juniper, the former Fundraising and Development Coordinator, and Julie, both of whom are talented, femme-identifying musicians and performers. Me, I’m a singer and a femme too. FEMME POWAAAH!!
source: FemmeThings etsy shop
FACT#10: I tried out for my school’s volleyball team three times, and didn’t get picked. This year at Serve we’ll be bringing back the LOSERS’ TOURNAMENT, an opportunity for people like me to get some measure of glory and dignity back and reclaim our right to have fun playing sports!
Well team, I hope this has been informative. For me it’s been mildly humiliating BUT it’s also gotten me jazzed about this year’s event (and given me some ideas for future less research-intensive blog posts.) If you have any questions about Serve — or wanna get involved!! — feel free to shoot me an email: email@example.com.
Have you heard? Ontario has a new sex-ed curriculum! This curriculum update—the first since 1998, i.e., around the time Google was invented—will be implemented in schools this fall, and covers a bunch of ‘new’ topics including same-sex relationships, sexting, and masturbation.
While it’s hard to predict how this new curriculum will be implemented, we are super excited that Ontario is taking steps toward a sex-ed curriculum for the 21st century! We are also pumped that the conversation is expanding to become more comprehensive, inclusive, and holistic. High fives! At the same time, we at Head & Hands are making the same sad faces we had back in 2005 when the Quebec government basically removed sex ed from the curriculum. Because they still haven’t put it back!
Quebec is lagging behind when it comes to sex ed, and youth are the ones who are losing out. Sure, some sex ed is happening—by community organizations like Head & Hands and some teachers—but it certainly isn’t happening at the level or frequency required to meet the needs of our province’s youth. From the Sense Project’s past 10 years on the ground doing sex ed to fill in these gaps, it has become clear to us that the government needs to step up!
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ten years have passed since the curriculum reform, and we have seen stats go in the wrong direction in Quebec. STI rates are rising (and yes, F@#% STIgma), and so too are rates of relationship violence. At Head & Hands, we believe that in order to address these challenges, we need sex ed in every classroom that is non-judgemental, holistic, and speaks directly to youth.
We think that youth deserve consistent, reliable access to information and tools regarding sexuality, consent, boundaries, gender identities, and healthy relationships. Having access to emotional, behavioural, and communication tools can support youth in making informed decisions about their sexual health.
Access to comprehensive sexual health information is more important than ever in an era when youth can find all kinds of sex and sexual health information at the click of a mouse (or touch of a screen). The debate over access to sexual health information has changed—youth are accessing and exchanging information at increasingly frequent rates. We believe that accurate information being at the core of that exchange is a priority—to address myths and STIgma; to foster dialogue around diversity and empowered decision making; and to facilitate the development in youth of self-knowledge about bodies, desires, values, and needs when it comes to sex and sexuality. We applaud the steps Ontario has taken, but we need more.
We spoke with Global TV to help folks understand the context of sex ed in Quebec, and to share what we think Quebec should be doing about sex ed in our province!
We at Head & Hands are calling for the development and implementation of a mandatory non-judgemental, holistic, youth-empowered sex-ed curriculum as well as ongoing trainings for educators, social service providers, and front-line workers. Youth are learning about sex in a million ways—let’s support them in making informed decisions about their health and sexuality.
We’re excited to introduce you to our 16 new and returning Sense Animators! These wonderful volunteers just finished their 33-hour-long training and are ready to head out to schools, community centres, and group homes to give sexual health education workshops to Montreal youth.
Led by Health Educator Gabrielle, and Sense Project Research Assistant Shanice, this training session familiarized our peer animators with the Sense Project’s holistic, non-judgmental and youth-centered approach. They were also provided with the tools, skills, and knowledge to facilitate discussions with youth around sexuality and sexual health.
One of the many essential elements to a successful training session is having copious amounts of food available and for that we’d like to thank the People’s potato, Nouveau Palais, Burritoville, Dépanneur Le Pick-up, Lola Rosa, and Aux Vivres, for supplying us with three weeks’ worth of delicious food!
As always, we invite YOUR school or community group to get in touch about booking workshops! We can do them in English or in French, and can provide harm reductive, non-judgemental drug education workshops in addition to our sex ed offerings. If we don’t already have a workshop or presentation that fits the bill, we can often create one that meets your health or sexuality needs! Just email Gabrielle at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you want to volunteer as a Sense animator during the next academic year, keep an eye out for an application callout in the summer of 2015!
We are currently seeking new volunteer animators for the 2014-15 school year!
Interested in facilitating sex ed workshops with youth in high schools? Getting involved with the Sense Project at Head & Hands is a fantastic opportunity to learn, grow and support the well-being of youths in Montreal.
Some need-to-know info about applying to be a Sense Project animator:
• New applicants must be aged 25 and under.
• Animators should be committed to Head & Hands’ principles of anti-oppression, risk reduction, and non-judgment.
• Animators should have some availability on weekdays during the day. Throughout the school year, your amount of volunteering is highly dependent on your availabilities, and the workshop requests made by schools and organizations.
• Bilingualism is not mandatory, but it’s an asset! The training will be bilingual (ENG-FR).
• It is also an asset if you have previous animation experience or experience working with youth, but it’s not a requirement.
• It is mandatory to attend the full animator training (dates listed below).
• Animators must commit for an entire school year, and in taking part in the monthly trainings for the Sense Project (2 hours per month).
The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 12th at noon. We’ll then book a short screening interview with prospective volunteers only. If you have any questions, feel free to call Gabrielle at (514) 481-0277 or email at email@example.com!
The ninth annual Serve tournament is making its immensely anticipated return on July 27th 2014! The official event page is up, and the countdown has begun!
To get a taste of Serve’s magic, check out the brand-new video from Serve 2013 above, produced by Stefan Verna and Carlos Mondragón. This video leaves us with chills in our spine and major anticipation for this year’s event.
Serve is a funtastic day of volleyball that gathers the bar and restaurant community in Montreal for a wicked party with beer, games and a volleyball competition in support of the Sense Project, Head & Hands’ peer-based sexual education program.
Get your game on for social change! We have 8 volleyball courts this year, and all the teams will have the opportunity to play more than just 3 games. Bierbrier is sponsoring the beer this year– we have a total of 18 kegs, so bring your thirsty friends! We have over 800$ worth of tattoo gift certificates to give away and many other cool prizes.
Come one and come all and help us put the sense in consensual, the semen in amusement and the fun in fundraising!
Dental dams–what have you heard about them? They’re great for oral sex, whether your mouth is heading for a vulva or an anus, and provide a barrier to bodily fluids and skin-to-skin STI transmission. We think everyone should know about them and have the choice to use them!
Estelle, Stagiaire in Sexology from UQAM, says that she wanted to create these how-to videos to make this barrier method more accessible to youth. Despite the fact that dental dams are rarely discussed and even more rarely available, it’s very easy to make one with an external condom! These videos bring a little humor to sex ed, making it a little more pleasant and less stressful.
UQAM Sexology intern Shanna poses with some of the questions anonymously asked last Faggity.
This week on the blog we’re shining the spotlight on Faggity Ass Fridays, our queer monthly dance party that raised over $22, 000 last year for the Sense Project. If you like what you read, we hope you’ll come out and groove with us this Friday!
Since its inception in 2007, the Sense Project has reached thousands of Montreal youth with reliable, approachable information on safer sex and sexuality. Now it’s set to reach even more, by bringing sex ed to the dance floor at Faggity Ass Fridays!
“There are pamphlets, condoms, lube and dental dams available when you come into the event, but we’re taking it to another level,” says Shanna, the UQAM Sexology intern who is heading up the project. At each event, Shanna will collect anonymous sexual health questions and post answers in washrooms at the following event. “Restrooms during parties can be independent environments from the parties themselves where a lot of stuff can go on,” says Shanna. “They also give the opportunity to take a breather, refresh, and exchange.”
Shanna will also be available during the party to answer questions, encouraging “folks to dare to ask the one question they wouldn’t ask anyone else about sexuality.” So far, Shanna says, party goers have been up for it: “It’s a pleasure to see peoples’ eyes light up knowing that they have the possibility to ask anything, and get sex positive and real answers.”
Up next? A drag king performance, and some special sex-ed workshops, just for Faggity Ass Fridays. “We want folks to know that sex ed is not just available in schools, but that it can be available everywhere and that it can be fun,” Shanna explains. We couldn’t agree more!