Our Volunteers: To Sex::Tech or Bust!

I'm writing today to make a modest funding ask of our allies and our readers capable of financial contributions on behalf of our volunteers.

What we're looking to do is to raise enough funds for all of our volunteers, who are able, to fly to San Francisco this April and attend the sex::tech conference together.

Doing so would allow them to appear on a panel we're giving composed of young adult peer online educators, in which they can talk about being educators and engage in a discussion with attendees which will, I expect, influence both attendees and the volunteers positively. I feel it's very important for them to be able to experience some outside, in-person recognition for the fantastic work they've done over the years and want that for them very much. This will also allow as many of us as possible to meet in person and do some important brainstorming about Scarleteen as a website and an organization. Many of them have never met in person, despite sometimes talking online for hours a day while working together, and that, by itself, would be a wonderful thing for them.

Over the last year, we've been exceptionally short-handed around here, and yet, our volunteers have kept plugging along, helping to serve the many users we do each day, patiently, generously and beautifully. It's not an overstatement to say that without them, Scarleteen would not be the same place, particularly when it comes to our direct services. Our text-in line, for instance, is now run almost entirely by two of our volunteers. I'd lose my mind trying to run our busy forums alone, but more to the point, I couldn't do it as well without their contributions and support. As well, I am blessed to be able to talk about our static content with them, having a constant, accessible panel of young people to check in with, and I've co-written articles with some of them that I think are some of the best content we have.

I also think they're exceptional people who I am so proud to have as part of our team. There's not a one of them who hasn't weathered at least one major challenge in life, some several, and done so with strength and grace, then turned around and used those experiences to help others. I admire them, and I consider them my peers, even if we aren't peers in age. I strongly believe our volunteers are sexuality education leaders now who will be even stronger leaders in the future, especially if they are supported well and given opportunities to work with others in the field early. Not all of them will choose that path, but several already have, and I'd like to be able to help them get as many opportunities to support their skills, talents and drive as possible.

I've had colleagues ask me in the past about choosing conferences, and my answer over the last few years has been that if I could only choose one conference to attend as a young adult sexuality educator, it would be this one. I find the group of people who attend the conference and present there fantastic and inspiring, I love how many young people are always there -- more than I have seen at any other sexuality conference -- and I always leave it with a brain bursting with new ideas and fresh energy. I think this particular conference benefits our field greatly, and would be of great benefit to Scarleteen's volunteers, and they to it. If I leave the conference with so many more new ideas and such renewed energy myself, imagine what might happen if nearly all of our staff could do so!

Karyn, one of our volunteers went in the past, and this is what she had to say about it:

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend sex::tech, a fantastic sex education and technology conference put on by ISIS, Inc. Although at that point I’d been a volunteer at Scarleteen for around six years, it was the first time I’d ever had the chance to connect in person with others working in the same field, and long story short, it was amazing. Even though the conference only lasted two days, I learned a huge amount and forged some really great relationships.

Aside from attending a variety of fantastic presentations and panel discussions, one of the best parts of the conference for me was getting the chance to talk to some of the young people attending – high school and college students from around the country. They were smart, funny, enthusiastic, and just all-around awesome, and while I talk to young adults every day as a Scarleteen volunteer, talking to them in person is a whole different kettle of fish, and a real eye-opener. Rather than just answering specific questions, I got to ask them some questions of my own, find out a little bit more about what they need and want when it comes to sexuality education.

In addition to meeting so many fantastic young people, the sense of community I felt was also amazing. I’ve always felt kind of alone in doing the work that I do (sex education isn’t just a hobby for me, it’s a career path), particularly online, when colleagues can be thousands of miles away and meeting in person is often impossible. My friends think what I do is cool, but they don’t quite get it; my family REALLY doesn’t get it; and my partner thinks I’m brave and amazing and smart and all those things, but he doesn’t really get why I’m doing this either (or quite how much it means to me). Spending two solid days with people who DO get it, who face similar challenges, was phenomenal, and the sense I got of belonging was incredibly valuable, and a real affirmation of why I’m doing what I do. On the long list of things I’m looking forward to about sex::tech this year, that feeling of community is way up near the top.

We already have financial support to get three of our volunteers there, but we'd like to move it up to six, including Joey, our wonderful longtime volunteer in Germany. To cover the costs of travel, lodging, meals and conference fees for volunteers which our current budget cannot, we're looking to raise $2,500 for this purpose in the next few weeks.

How much have we raised so far? As of February 25th, we've raised $1700.00!

We always need help with funding as we remain an independent media organization which has never received any public funding or grants and which has always been supported entirely by private donations from individuals. Having recently finished establishing the Find-a-Doc database, a major and costly project, and having received a lower year-end fundraising result in 2010 than we needed, we are not currently able to pay for extras like this, even though something like this is, in so many ways, an essential. So, we're asking for your help.

If you'd like to help us out with this, you can use the donation link at the top of the page, or click here. If you want to earmark your donations specifically for this purpose, you can leave a note in the memo section of your donation. That would be fantastic, because I know the volunteers who will be able to attend because of you would love to thank you personally.

As usual, our biggest thanks to the people like you who help us do what we do and who help us keep growing so we can get better and better at doing it, which certainly includes doing what we can to support our fantastic young volunteers!