Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri is proud to introduce you to Sean Marz (left) and Emily Luft (right). Sean and Emily volunteer with us and work with our Teen Advocates for Sexual Health (TASH) program. I had a brief conversation with them to see what volunteering with Planned Parenthood means to them.
Why is it important to you to volunteer with Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri?
Sean: I know that Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is doing such important work to safeguard the reproductive health and well-being of our region. As more and more people, organizations, and legislative policies are attacking Planned Parenthood, I am called to do my part as a volunteer. I think when we care about making sure that everyone in our community has access to the resources needed to take control of our reproductive health, then it's also our job to actively support it. I'm honored to do my part!
Emily: For me, volunteering for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is really about giving back to an organization that has given me so much. My story with PPSLR started when I was a high school student who participated in the TASH program. From my first meeting, I was welcomed into a community that gave me information with no judgment and encouraged me to think deeply. Participating in TASH changed me and changed the course of my life. Having the chance to give back as a volunteer sexuality educator and helping to create the same kind of community that saved me as a teenager is the least I could do.
Do you have a favorite volunteer experience with Planned Parenthood?
Sean: Often, we have TASH retreats that fall on Saturdays during the "40 days of life" or other anti-choice protests. When this happens, our TASH students often ask to go outside and stand together and send a clear but silent message about the fact that we're here - no matter what. Every time I get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our next wave of reproductive justice advocates, I'm reminded that I'm part of a special movement - that are leaders of tomorrow are also ensuring that the doors of PPSLR stay open to all.
Emily: One of the TASH lessons we facilitate every year is about the coming out process for LGB individuals. The activity we use can get pretty intense, especially for our students who are asked to imagine themselves in situations where they lose friends, family members, jobs, and even their hopes and dreams in order to live in the fullness of their sexuality. Last year, this activity impacted our group especially hard, and I'm not sure there was a dry eye in the room. The reason this is my favorite moment, though, is not the tears - it was the way the TASH students all showed up for each other in that moment. There were hugs and check-ins, the exchanges of phone numbers so they could check in later, and an acknowledgement of the importance of making sure that they disrupt homophobia and heterosexism in their lives.
What else would you like to share about volunteering with Planned Parenthood?
Sean: There are so many different ways to volunteer! Because Planned Parenthood provides so many different kinds of services in terms of health care, advocacy, and education, there is a way to share your special gifts with the organization. If you've been thinking about volunteering but aren't sure what you could offer, take the first step of reaching out. You might even learn something new!
Emily: It'll fire you up. I always leave PPSLR feeling even more passionate about my beliefs and energized to do even more to support reproductive justice and make sure our young people have what they need to be healthy adults. Plus, you'll get to meet some pretty wonderful people!
Tim Williams is the Community Engagement Manager at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.