Armed with 3,000 condoms, heaps of educational information and a keen desire to cut down the number of STD's and unwanted pregnancies in Whistler, Sue Clarkson and a dedicated group of volunteers shared a little Condomsense last week.
Condomsense — a Whistler-designed answer to the popular Condomania campaign — came to a close Dec. 6, and according to Clarkson, the response was phenomenal.
"We were very excited by the amount of education that had been spread regarding Condomsense," says Clarkson. "When we arrived at staff housing about 95 per cent of the people we talked to knew we were coming and what we were all about."
"The condom people are here!" arose the cry down the hallways of Blackcomb staff housing. Fresh-faced employees emerged from their rooms to embrace the free condoms and listen to what the volunteers had to say. The volunteers, Clarkson says, were not there for lighthearted chat — the cold, hard facts on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, AIDS and unwanted pregnancies were doled out with the free rubber.
Clarkson is the Condomsense co-ordinator and a tireless public health nurse who has injected her own energy into the grassroots movement to get Whistler's youth to educate and empower themselves in the growing fight against STDs and AIDS. While the idyllic setting of Whistler Resort may allow many problems a chance to hide, the problems of the inner-city are just as prevalent here as anywhere else.
Unwanted pregnancy rates are among the highest in the province, STD "epidemics" affect the young, transient population that calls Whistler home for parts of the year and the problem is not going away.
Clarkson and the 30 volunteers who canvassed Blackcomb, Whistler, the Chateau and Delta staff housing complexes did not rely on the pedantic and easy route of firing off scary statistics — they are like-minded young people who came to talk about the frank reality of having sex in the ’90s — and the possible consequences.
The $4,600 Clarkson and Condomsense volunteers had to work with is about half the budget allocated to the program last year. The other half of the funding went to a needle exchange program in Squamish.
Clarkson says she is excited by the amount of volunteer support and community energy directed to the 1995 Condomsense Campaign. Cabbies had taken some of the condoms and were passing them out to fares who looked like "it may have been necessary," she says.
While Clarkson and her team of volunteers were out spreading condoms and the gospel according to safe sex, another Whistlerite is joining the world-wide battle against AIDS. Local business dynamo Maxine Druker is working with Milwaukee-based Camp Heartland and abstract artist Eric Waugh of Montreal to help send kids living with AIDS or who are HIV-positive to Camp Heartland, a week-long camp designed to cater to AIDS orphans or those with the deadly virus.
After a visit to Camp Heartland, Waugh was so moved by the children of AIDS that he painted "Hero," an abstract, mixed media work that has been translated into a poster to be sold to help send Canadian kids affected by AIDS to Camp Heartland.
"Camp Heartland doesn't really have a permanent home," says Druker. "We are in the process of raising funds so kids can come from all over the world."
Locally, the hero poster is available at the Bear Foot Bistro and all of the proceeds will go to support Canadian kids living with AIDS.
Druker says Hero will be unveiled at the New York Art Expo, March 7-11, 1996.