Sunday- Volunteering at Inside Books Project
I saw this van about a year ago at my friend Cullen's apartment. Something made me look this place up, and I had been eager to check it out in person.
Inside Books Project is an all volunteer, non-profit org that sends free books and educational materials to people in prison in the state of Texas. It is the only org in Texas offering this resource.
Social Work Council needed a service project, and a few people were interested in going with me.
Volunteering at IBP consists of reading letters, finding books to meet prisoners' requests, writing letters back to prisoners, and packaging up books.
Social Work Council in front of the library.
The letters we were filling were all the way from September. This place needs more volunteers! Here is one of my letters.
IBP said they've never filled so many requests on a Sunday! They invited us to come back, and I'm sure we will be.
I want to mention how great this experience made me feel. Reading letters from prisoners... some are brief but some explain why they are in jail or how much of their sentence they've served and have left. Picking out books that will hopefully in someway rehabilitate this person... it just feels good. Let's go back together!
Monday- Nicholas Kristof Lecture
Nicholas Kristof spoke at the LBJ Library and Museum on Monday night.
It was a little disappointing only because he spoke about stories from his book Half the Sky which I've already read. Additionally, the questions the audience asked were a let down (but who am I to complain since I didn't stand in line to ask one).
At least I got good seats thanks to my lovely friends Lynde, Gwen, and Barbara!
Tuesday- Condom Distribution/ Meetings with Senate Candidates
Tuesday, Valentine's Day, was the first time I've gotten to do condom distribution with the Healthy Sexuality Peer Educators!
In the UHS Health Hut, with condoms and buttons lining the table.
I didn't stay in the hut the whole time, I also handed them out in the middle of West Mall. Some of the responses I got were interesting. I tried to ask everyone who walked by if they wanted free condoms. I saw a mom, a dad, and a toddler and I still asked them. The mom pointed to her toddler and said, "We don't need condoms." I kind of felt like an asshole, but I was trying not to judge who does and does not need condoms. Later though, she came by the Health Hut and picked up a few condoms. (I think taking condoms out of someone's hands is more intimidating than picking it up off the table). The other response I got was from my friend Ginger. When I asked her she said, "Nope, still a lesbian." (Also felt like an asshole. Can't we hand out dental dams?! [Haha]).
Liz and Megan tabling for VRJ! Check out that sweet new banner!
VRJ also tabled on the West Mall for Valentine's Day, passing out the Planned Parenthood bags we all made together. I didn't get to table with them since I was tabling with HSPEs, but they handed out all of their loot before I got off my HSPE shift anyway! (HSPE and VRJ are in NO WAY affiliated).
On Tuesday I also met with three of the candidates for Senate Exec Board: Kendra Loftice, Hannah Tucker, and Bala Varadhan. All were great conversations, but especially with Bala! Our conversation kind of drifted off topic... we started talking about private and public sector work, how we see our futures, and he also shared some of his stories of traveling to India with me. He ended up sending me 3 presentations from one of his classes about Health and Education. Unfortunately, due to studying, I haven't had a chance to review them, but still appreciated! Thanks, Bala!
Friday- Austin Housing Authority/Planned Parenthood Rally
Before the rally, I had an interview with Louise Sawaki from the Austin Housing Authority. It started off a little rough when she was uncomfortable with a question I asked. The question was, "what do you think causes low-income single mothers?" Her response was along the lines of, "You want me to tell you why poverty exists in our county? Did you write that question? That question doesn't even make sense. Who is to say that without a mother and a father that the child lives in a broken home? What about anonymous sperm donors or surrogate mothers?" Well, we ended up discussing institutionalized and systemic poverty, but whoa! I think that question needs to be rephrased at least. (I guess I was expecting something like: lack of access to birth control and irresponsible fathers, but I suppose that's a little close minded as well).
Then I was off to the Planned Parenthood rally!
Dru Tigner is the Planned Parenthood Community Outreach Specialist who miraculously put this thing together.
Megan and I helped with voter registration.
We also passed out these awesome chocolate birth controls. (You can't really see it, but they even have the days under each of the "pills").
This is on the back of the chocolates.
Dude with awesome sign/some of the crowd
Some pro lifers joined us as well. There were about a dozen of them.
Dyana Limon-Mercado is Planned Parenthood's Statewide Public Affairs Coordinator. She is who I am volunteering under!
Dru asked me to do two interviews for the rally.
(Photo Courtesy of UT University Democrats)
The first one was awful. I was so nervous my legs were shaking under me and that's all I could think about. The second one was way better, but I can't find it! Here is my five seconds of fame. KVUE News Clip and Article About UT PP Rally
This is a more comprehensive review of the rally that I suggest over the KVUE clip: Texas Tribune Video about UT PP Rally. It includes some of the rally speeches, but also protester opinions. Can I make clear that birth control prevents the fertilized egg from implanting? They are not abortifacients (and neither is Plan B). Also, NO ONE WANTS TO HAVE AN ABORTION!!! People do not have sex to have an abortion. Birth control helps prevent that need. And you are able to become pregnant after you stop using contraceptives.
Oh yeah, one last thing.
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