Cara Battrick – Sex Matters Too project Coordinator

It’s Sexual Health Week and I want to share how important sexual health education is from my own experience of educating my peers in Torfaen, Wales on the Sex Matters Too project.

The Sex Matters Too project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and engages volunteers aged 16-25 to deliver information around sexual health, sexual exploitation and healthy relationships across Newport, Torfaen, Caerphilly and Monmouthshire, where the teenage pregnancy rate is high.

I started volunteering at the age of 16 at my local volunteer centre. I found myself a bit disengaged and heading down the wrong path and I wanted to do something to keep me busy and out of trouble. Through different activities and clubs at the centre, I met Sianne from Volunteering Matters and, with her help, signed up to volunteering placements all across Torfaen in schools, youth clubs and various youth settings. It was then I was introduced to the ‘Sex Matters’ project. The project has us delivering sexual health information to other young people our own age in schools, colleges, youth clubs and community settings –  and I loved it! As peer leaders, we design our own part of the workshops and deliver them in front of young people, in order to give them a sense of responsibility over their bodies, choices and relationships.

In my experience, young people either think they going to get an STI / (a girl )pregnant or that they don’t need to use protection at all. Our workshops help young people understand the different STIs and how they can affect their body and the importance of using protection not only for their health but for their futures as well – and they’re hearing this from their peers, not their teachers.

The programme is a fantastic resource for young people as it gives them chance to listen to each other’s  opinions and act as a support network for each other. Young people often find it difficult to discuss sensitive, personal issues with professionals, but when we talk to the young people in our sessions, they know they are talking to their peers and find it easier to express their feelings.

Seven years on from when I started volunteering with Volunteering Matters on the Sex Matters project, I now have a BA Hons in youth and communities studies with youth justice and have become a full time member of the Volunteering Matters team as the Sex Matters Too project Coordinator. Volunteering completely changed my life. I went from a young girl who didn’t really want to know to a professional doing something I love, and best of all, educating young people on how to be safe in relationships.