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Waterloo Region – As part of their legacy, Helen and Fred Bentley generously support sexual health innovation and leadership through the Helen and Fred Bentley Awards of Excellence. The award is coordinated by Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (Action Canada) and comes with a monetary prize to support ongoing efforts in the field. This year, Waterloo’s very own Sexual Health Options, Resources & Education (SHORE Centre, formerly Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region) was honoured with second prize for “Great Sexpectations,” an interactive play performed by youth volunteers at youth shelters, homes for teen parents, LGBTQ+ youth groups, and in high schools. First place was awarded to Planned Parenthood Regina, in Saskatchewan.

The play was created by youth in 2007 based on their own experiences. Its aim is to empower teens to make healthy, informed decisions related to their relationships and sexual health. The volunteer actors update the script every year to make sure it is current – scenes addressing sexting, consent and gender are recent additions based on their suggestions. The play is performed in front of the audience twice. During the second performance audience members stop the actors and replace them on stage. The audience members then re-do the scenario acting out how they would make healthier decisions.

“We have found interactive theatre to be an excellent vehicle to engage youth in sexual health education, empowering them to make healthy and informed decisions,” said Lyndsey Butcher, Executive Director of SHORE. “Audience members often get really excited, shouting out different ways to make healthier choices and showing off their sexual health knowledge.”

Last year 80% of audience members reported increased knowledge and skills related to the topics covered in the play and 85% rated the performance as “Awesome.” To date, SHORE has reached 3,000 youth with the play and engaged 150 youth volunteers.

The organization, which has promoted choice through accurate sexual health education for the past 45 years, also offers community sexual health education, confidential pregnancy options support and small group programs for youth and newcomer women.

“We are proud to count SHORE Centre among our Associate Organizations,” said Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada. “We received a strong number of applications and it was no easy decision, but SHORE Centre stood out. We are inspired and motivated by the way they engage with youth in a way that empowers them to take the lead in their sexual health education and addresses their lived experiences and realities. It’s programs like “Great Sexpectations” that will make a real difference. This is how we need to keep working to guarantee all people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

The play is generously supported by individual donors and the Musagetes Fund through the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation.