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As part of our Medical degree, there’s been a considerable focus on Health Promotion and the role of community health in the broader spectrum of healthcare. Angus Brown and myself (Harry Brown – no relation) – aptly named ‘Hangus’, or the Brown Brothers – spent a year of placement with the team at the YEAH headquarters.
Initially, this headquarters was quite an overwhelming one. Our first morning, after having braved Melbourne’s temperamental public transport, we rocked up to discover that the office had been broken into and robbed! What were we getting ourselves into? This apprehension was compounded by pictures of condom castles hanging on the walls, condoms littering the desks, and a 6-foot high wooden HIV ribbon sitting in the middle of the office. Surrounded by corporate offices however, we soon learnt that this place offered a relaxed, youthful environment for the staff of YEAH to go about promoting safe sex. The effervescent, dedicated staff included Felix, aka the human gorilla, Patsy, the Twitter tycoon, as well as the CEO Alischa, the calming and directing influence on it all. It was this mélange of staff who worked together to run sexual education campaigns in schools, music festivals and other local community settings, and who made our experience at YEAH so memorable and rewarding.
A highlight of our time was spending the weekend at the Groovin’ the Moo festival in Bendigo. This involved a team of volunteers, or ‘peer educators’ spreading the safe sex message to all the festivalgoers. (For more information, see Angus’ Blog). Getting to know other young people interested in safe sex and STI prevention, as well as joining in the festivities, was a rewarding and enjoyable experience, and something that we would both love to do again. To prepare for this festival, both Angus and I attended a rigorous (albeit rough) training weekend to learn all about the different STIs and the best way to educate the public about them, effectively becoming ‘Agents of Yeah’. One interesting thing we took away from these experiences was the alarmingly low level of knowledge surrounding STIs and their prevention in the general public. The work of YEAH is certainly a vital cog in raising awareness for the growing epidemic of STIs in our community.
Our time at YEAH was not always spent at the coalface of health promotion. Many mundane but important administrative tasks are part and parcel of a not-for-profit organisation such as YEAH. These tasks included sorting T shirts and survey responses, sending information and promotional material to YEAH members (become RedAware today to receive your very own personally packed envelope), as well as trips to the post-office. Angus and I became very comfortable around YEAH, and felt that we were making a meaningful contribution to the work they do.
As the year draws to a close, we are getting a bit teary thinking about the prospect of having to say farewell to Felix’s luscious beard and ‘entirely professional’ sense of humour, Patsy and her Tabasco antics, and Alischa’s enthusiasm and wealth of knowledge, and as we were all made aware, her love for ‘Public Enemy’. Oh, and who could forget Fi, and her impish ways every Tuesday! Angus and I feel proud of the work YEAH does, and are excited about the big future YEAH has in store. We would like to thank all the staff and volunteers of YEAH who have made our placement so enjoyable, and we will certainly stay involved in the YEAH campaign
Harry Brown & Angus Brown