Saturday, September 15, 2007

Davao Teen Center: A haven for Distressed Souls

Last month, I picked up someone...and something!

This was what was playing in 18-year old Rick's mind as he nervously sat on the couch across the peer counselor inside the small room. For sometime now he had suspected that he had picked up 'something' painful and unpleasant from a woman whom he picked up from the street and had sex with a couple of weeks ago.

He had been sexually active since he turned 15 but this was the first time he experienced something painful and he was scared. Afraid to tell his parents and his friends about his suspicions, he silently bore the burning and excruciating pain he feels every time he urinates, until close examination showed a yellow discharge from his sexual organ.

Terrified now, he didn't know where else to go and whom to turn to, until a friend mentioned something about the Davao Teen Center that lends a listening ear to anyone who feels the need to unburden their problems, and offers advice to troubled individuals.

Rick found solutions to his problem at the teen center. He was able to spill his problems with ease. Kind and understanding counselors referred Rick to a clinic in the city which specializes in the treatments of sexually-transmitted diseases (STD).

Kara is another case. At the age of 13, she is already sexually active but she was curious and had so many questions in her mind about sex. She also feared getting pregnant because she was not yet ready to face the risks and the responsibilities.

Lacking the courage to voice out her questions to her parents or teachers, she discovered the teen center and tried dialling their number. There she found satisfying answers to the questions she had been afraid to ask.

At the Teen Center, friendly and accomodating counselors man the telephones to entertain calls from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday.
The DTC is a special project of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) under its Development and Family Life Education for the Youth.

The idea of establishing the DTC started in 1987 when a training and counseling session were conducted after the conceptualized livelihood project was not pursued.

Youth volunteers were then trained in disseminating adequate information regarding the concerns of adolescents including the consequences of pre-marital sex, early marriage, drug addiction, boy-girl relationship, homosexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and other concerns related to adolescents' fertility and sexuality.

After the training, the FPOP considered the need to put up a center where counseling sessions for teenagers can be held.
DTC coordinator Joel Salonga said the budget for the over-all operation of the center comes from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which is based in London.
For this year, Salonga said their budget is P882,000. The amount, Joel added, already covers the activities in the center and the salaries for the staff.

The DTC operates with three regular staff, 15 peer counselors and 20 peer educators.

"All our volunteers here are college students. Some are from the Holy Cross of Davao College, University of Mindanao, Ateneo de Davao University, Davao Doctors College and Brokenshire College. They are really volunteers as what the word volunteer connotes," Salonga said.

Salonga said the DTC aims to clear doubts, ease the worries and answer questions of a teenager regarding reproductive health issues, career planning and other topics that can be discussed by trained peer counselors.
Salonga said they are merely counselors who listens and give advice to teenagers seeking their assistance.

"During the counseling, we don't tell our clients to do this or that. We try to picture to them the consequences of their actions. For instance, in the case of teenagers who wants to have an abortion, we give them options and tell them what teh consequences are if they wanted to go on. We allow them to think and decide on their own," Salonga said.

Young as they are, Salonga believes they are capable of giving advice to an individual of their age. Salonga said they have gone through trainings and information education before they become counselors.

Salonga said the DTC trains every year at least 20 people, who are interested to become counselors. The five-day training, he added, would involve education on adolescent reproductive health and discussions on basic counseling.

Salonga said the DTC receives a minimum of three walk-in clients and 10 callers everyday seeking for advice and information about the center.

Salonga said the client can request if he or she wants to talk to more then one counselor.
"There are clients who are embarassed to talk about their porblems especially if it's STD (sexually transmitted disease). We also have clients who do not have ideas that they have STD . We informed them about the disease and the symptoms and he went to see a doctor," Salonga said.

Salonga, however, said the DTC would not be able to know what happened next to their client after the first counseling session because they do not oblige the client to come back to the center for follow-up sessions.

It is up for the client to come back to the center for another counseling session.
"But we don't think we are not effective counselors because the clients come back to thank us. From these people nga mobalik, we consider ourselves effective counselors," Salonga said.
The peer counselors at the DTC also have monthly evaluation among themselves to check whether or not they have been sound in giving pieces of advice.

Dr. Flordeliza Posadas, a psychologist, supervises the evaluation activity of the peer counselors.
The DTC staff also goes school to school to promote their peer counseling program.

However, Salonga said they are having difficulty in introducing the center in schools and universities run by nuns.

Salonga said they are getting the impression that the DTC promotes practices that are against the values imbued by the school.
"We do not promote pre-marital sex, abortion or drug addiction in the center. We just provide our clients the information they needed be it on sexuality, fertility, gender, fertility and other topics," Salonga said.

Among the common concerns and problems the peer counselors at the DTC encounter include sexual activity, drug addiction, STDs, misunderstanding in boy-girl relationships and peer pressure.
The DTC may be composed of unexperienced individuals but they are trying to prove they can contribute a lot to the community that is slowly changing the youth into a better citizens of the country.

No comments: