Rights, Respect, Responsibility Coordinator
Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon
The familiar maxim, “It takes a village…”, is alive and well when it comes to offering Our Whole Lives (OWL) in Eugene, Oregon. One growing (and for some, surprising) segment of the village providing comprehensive sex education for youth is the faith community. With generous funding from a local donor and the Meyer Memorial Trust, Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon (PPSO) has coordinated three OWL facilitator trainings since 2004. The result: 62 faith- and community-based villagers committed to providing this extraordinary education for the youth they serve.
OWL is creating special opportunities for young people and adults to connect in a forum of honesty, openness and learning. It’s leaving its mark on the youth, the facilitators… and their faith communities. In one of his weekly reports to the congregation, Raymond Albano, youth leader and OWL facilitator for the Unity of the Valley shares, “We just finished our 3rd session tonight. The topic was 'sexual language'. We all had a riot together. By the time we finished there had been a lot of laughter, nervousness, fun and freedom shared by everyone. This class continues to be a blessing to all involved. ”
And from Unity pastor, Ed Conrad: “Thank you and thank you again. The wisdom, education, and service you are providing is certain to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of these young people as well as your own!”
Melanie Oommen, Associate Pastor, First Congregational Church talks about the value OWL has had throughout the entire congregation, “The Our Whole Lives Program has helped the adults and parents in our congregation to open important lines of communication with our young people. It has empowered our young people to make life-affirming choices and feel prepared for life in the adult world. More than anything, it has demonstrated that church can be a place where we truly can bring our whole selves, at every stage of our development as human beings.”
And lastly, it’s the voice of the youth themselves in the village, who affirm this experience. When asked about the difficulty of making a 27-week commitment to attend the OWL classes, they have responded, “Are you kidding? It’s the one class we never miss.”