AMHERST, N.S. - The Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County has a new co-op student.
He’s more than a foreign exchange student, though. You could say he’s sort of out of this world.
The Amherst-based centre has introduced Quid, a new character in its video series that evolved from a classroom-based program with Grade 6 students across Cumberland County.
“We needed an educational tool for younger children and persons with intellectual disabilities. Sexual health encompasses more than sexual activity, it’s about developing healthy boundaries and consent as well as healthy relationships,” executive director Rene Ross said. “Throughout Cumberland County, and all our classes, we were trying to understand how we could talk about human relations with Grade 6 students and the subject turned to aliens and outer space. How would you describe this to an alien or someone from another world? This character started to develop and Quid was born.”
During the classes, Ross said stigma surrounding sexual health is discussed and the ways in which consent, developing healthy sexual boundaries, handling peer pressure and making informed decisions are central to sexual health. These are examples of the topics Quid will help explore as a character in some of its upcoming videos.
Kirstin Trochymchyk, the centre’s youth engagement co-ordinator, then went to work crafting Quid as a puppet based on the input.
“Quid’s colours, bright orange like the sun, and gender (Quid identifies as non-binary) and the story in which Quid is a student, a huge fan of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and loves to dance was developed with the direct input of young people,” Trochymchyk said. “And besides, puppets make everything more fun.”
Youth helped the centre produce its new video featuring Quid, in addition to previous videos leading up to Quid's backstory: First Contact Part I, Strange and Unexplained Activity, and the newest video introducing Quid, First Contact: Part II.
Youth contributed to these videos in many ways including the puppetry, special effects scenes, script development, filming, editing, and many feedback sessions.
By using fantasy, imagination – and even a bit of silliness – Ross hopes to break down stigma that fuels disinterest in the topic of sexual health, while providing accurate and age appropriate information and strategies to improve sexual health and wellbeing now and in the future.
With the support of youth, Quid will be on assignment with the sexual health centre, to learn about human relations, and themselves. Quid will assist with the media club the sexual health centre is developing as a vehicle to engage the community and deliver sexual health education that is accurate, current, responsive to community need, relevant and engaging.
“We’re trying to make sexual health comprehensive, engaging and fun. When young people are relaxed, they’re engaged and more willing and motivated to learn. Our ultimate goal is to increase health and wellbeing.”
Ross hopes it becomes a model program not just for Nova Scotia but for the country.
“These are different and crucial times and they call for different approaches to education and approaches that are innovative,” Ross said. “I’ve been doing this line of work for almost 20 years and just passing out a brochure is not it cutting anymore. We are embracing and working with technology to communicate with young people about important topics.”
She said it appears to be working with the first videos getting more than 25,000 views on the centre’s Facebook page.
For an example of the work, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHqJWlpHcPI .