The UVic Greens have been fundraising and spreading awareness for a recent $165 000 budget shortfall at the Island Sexual Health Society due to their rising clinical demands in 2013–2014.
The non-profit organization provides around 27 000 clients per year with birth control prescriptions, pelvic exams, sexually transmitted infection testing, guidance on gender identity, and more.
Jennifer Gibson first began her work with Island Sexual Health 10 years ago as a volunteer co-ordinator. She is now the Co-ordinator of Community Education Services.
“What we have found is that the issues that we are being presented with are increasingly complex,” she said. “The amount we are being reimbursed is not meeting the level of service that is being demanded. Because of that, we found ourselves with a budget shortfall [and] an increasing amount of debt.”
According to Gibson, the educational aspects of the organization are traditionally well-funded and stable. The clinical side, in which patients are involved, was struggling to sustain their level of service.
In an attempt to not compromise client care, the organization was forced to cut staff and ask for additional funding elsewhere. The community rallied together for support, including private donations, Camosun College, Reynolds and Oak Bay high schools, and UVic Greens.
“As Greens, we view access to inclusive and quality sexual and reproductive health care as a human right. We wanted to do what we can do to make sure that service remains available for students and the entire community,” UVic Greens Communication Liaison Nathan Grills said.
UVic Greens has nearly doubled in membership since September, boasting more than 350 registered members. Their bake sale on Oct. 30 and pub crawl on Nov. 14 aimed to fundraise and spread awareness for Island Sexual Health. “It ended up being a huge success,” Grills said. Combined, the two events raised over $1 000.
During their fundraising efforts, Grills encountered a number of students attending UVic from out of province. These students had no knowledge of the services Island Sexual Health could provide, and that “they could get tested confidentially in an inclusive space where they could just walk in,” he said.
Among the Green Party’s six core values are social justice and respect for diversity, said Grills.
“Ensuring that the sexual health clinic remains open is absolutely essential in terms of progressing women’s equality, and ensuring that the needs of the LGBTQ community are addressed through our health care system.”
Club members first learned of the issue through B.C. Green Party deputy leader Andrew Weaver, who brought the issue into the legislature. “It is a real threat that amazing organizations like this are underfunded and continue to be so, so that’s why we have to come at the issue [from] several different angles and not just monetarily,” said UVic Greens Chair Sarah Potts.
Part of their fundraising efforts were to raise sufficient funds, but mostly to raise awareness, according to Potts. “There are a lot of students who are understanding who they are, and maybe coming out to a doctor and talking about these issues—this is a safer, more inclusive space that is really valuable to students.”
“It really does affect peoples’ lives,” she said.