In 2005, KW Counselling Services launched its OK2BME program, a set of free, supportive services for LGBTQ2+ identified children, teens and their families in the Waterloo Region. The OK2BME program consists of three unique areas including confidential counselling services (in person, or online), OK2BME youth groups for individuals 12-18, as well as public education, consulting and training around LGBTQ2+ issues.
Since the pandemic hit, OK2BME Coordinator, Therapeutic Counsellor & Public Educator Washington Silk and the OK2BME team have been busy running a variety of online programs that cater to the needs of their clients. Their youth groups and counselling moved online in April to continue supporting the LGBTQ2+ youth in our community.
“We know from our clients that our work is making a difference. Our counselling clients tell us that they are happier and healthier after working with us,” Silk said.
Pride Prom — a party for high school students aged 14-18 who identify as LGBTQ2+, as well as their allies — was held in Cambridge May 8, and Kitchener May 28. Now in its 12th year running, the annual celebration is organized by the OK2BME Youth Leadership program and Kitchener’s Youth Action Council to create a safe space for LGBTQ2+ youth and their friends to come party and dance.
“Things have gotten a lot better for LGBTQ2+ youth in the past year,” Silk said.
Pride went virtual this year for KW and OK2BME along with it. They offered an online AMA (ask me anything) with one of their therapists where LGBTQ2+ youth could ask important questions like how to come out to their parents, or what it is like to be a therapist in the KW community.
On July 9th they also launched their brand new free virtual camp for LGBTQ2+ youth called Camp Queerantine. OK2BME partnered with local restaurants, organizations and community leaders to create a fun, welcoming and educational experience for attendees including a ‘nifty bag of camp swag’, a surprise lunch delivered at noon, various educational workshops and two keynote speakers.
We are having a virtual camp day! Join us for Camp Queerantine on July 9th!
This is free for LGBTQ2+ youth in Waterloo-Wellington to attend. You'll receive a nifty bag of camp swag, and food!
— OK2BME (@OK2BMEca) June 24, 2020
OK2BME also made sure that the camp was completely confidential by providing options for emergency contacts and where to deliver the lunches and swag bags privately and by ensuring a ‘what happens at Camp Queerantine stays at Camp Queerantine’s policy with no screenshots or videos permitted.
“We received a lot of great feedback from the participants about camp, especially about keynote speaker Laura Mae Lindo and her inspiring words,” Silk said.
Silk also said the whole experience was really rewarding for the youth who attended and that they are looking to create more programs like Camp Queerantine that can educate LGBTQ2+ youth in an interactive intersectional way that includes community leaders.
“Our public education efforts are the best way we can combat homo, bi and transphobia. This work will result in a community where [LGBTQ2+] folks experience less oppression and discrimination based on their sexual or gender identity,” Silk said.
For anyone looking to reach out to OK2BME and KW Counselling Silk said: “We are here for you and this is a safe place for you.”
For more info on their programs go to their website here.