Counties like Orangeburg or Allendale might not be the biggest in our state, but they definitely are dedicated to serving their communities, even in the smallest of ways. One of our partners, Orangeburg-Calhoun-Allendale-Bamberg Community Action Agency Inc. (OCAB CAA, INC.), is committed to making an impact on their community by bringing people together and discussing teen pregnancy prevention.
The agency works with the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign) to address teen pregnancy via a five-year project called Expanding the Reach. The federally funded project provides effective education programs to schools and community-based organizations and strives to increase access to teen-friendly reproductive health services.
One way that OCAB CAA, INC. is reaching community-based organization is by hosting Interfaith Brunches.
“We have always wanted to include the faith-based community in our work, but we know our pastors are busy. That’s why we decided to host something welcoming like a brunch,” Veronica Williams-Lingard, Prevention Program Director for OCAB CAA, INC. said. “We had about 50 people show up from of all different denominations. If pastors couldn’t show up, they sent a youth minister or other representative. That’s when we knew we had a captive audience that was interested, engaged and wanted to help.”
OCAB CAA, INC. used the brunch as an opportunity to share the most current teen birth data and break down their county’s data specifically. Beyond that, the brunch fostered interest in local churches becoming Condom Access Points (CAP), a safe and trusted place for teens to access condoms.
“Contrary to what people might think, faith leaders are not afraid to have these conversations,” Williams-Lingard said. “They were happy about the declining birth rates, but definitely surprised about the STD rates. They wanted to know what more they could do for the community.”
One of these leaders, Bishop Hayes T. Gainey of Orangeburg Good Shepard Community Ministries, states that all communities should be realistic about how they can serve their youth.
“Although our scripture says one thing, to wait for marriage, we must be realistic about life. Anything the church can do to help—we must be willing,” Bishop Gainey said. “Once we heard about the pregnancy and STD rates we decided to become a CAP site. That way we could talk to teens as they pick up condoms and have honest dialogue about the risks of unprotected sex.”
Beyond becoming CAP sites, participants chose to start SPARK training so that they can effectively engage with teens. These trainings provide an overview of topics to help youth-serving organizations enhance the youth-centered services and communication.
“It is so beneficial for communities to bring together different perspectives, especially when it comes to impacting a cause like our youth,” Williams-Lingard said. “One agency can’t possibly have all the answers—that’s why it’s so key to have buy in from schools, churches, colleges, etc. We want to make sure our entire community is engaged and committed to staying youth -friendly.”
As Orangeburg continues to reach local youth, the Bishop urges people to stay involved.
“It is my hope that various organizations and communities will work together to continue this good work,” Bishop Gainey said. “We must work together to stay informed and educated about issues that impact our youth; if forums like these brunches can help us support just one teen, it was worth it.”