Jude Trenier is the Youth Ministry Development Officer in the Republic of Ireland for the Church of Ireland Youth Department.
When I thought of AIDS & HIV, it was generally within the context of my capacity as an educator, a youth worker, a twenty-something, and not something that had a personal impact on my life. It was theoretical. It was a million miles away from my world. It was something that happened to other people.
I first came across ACET about 12 years ago, when I was working primarily in schools and youth camps around Ireland. I had sat through many presentations from other education groups on relationships and sexuality that were full of assumptions, hidden agendas and insensitive generalisations. But ACET was different. They really put a human face on the topic of relationships and sexuality education as well as inspiring real hope for those dealing with the reality of AIDS & HIV and related issues on a daily basis.
I went on to join the ACET educators’ course and a whole world of information and freedom through that knowledge opened up.
My experience of ACET’s professionalism combined with the care that they gave both to its staff and those they cared for totally changed my mindset.
It was about empowering through knowledge and information as it challenged fear and stigma. It widened my own personal perspective of the issues. But it also changed the way I approached relationships and sexuality education with the youth I worked with around Ireland. ACET’s focus on getting the accurate information across in a professional but sensitive format really changed how I approached the topic with the youth I met. It was inclusive, caring and relevant, giving people the power to make good decisions about their sexual health in a holistic way.
I have found that through the educators’ course and the support ACET have continued to give, my approach and content, when carrying out relationships and sexuality education in any context, has been transformational and a source of hope and freedom.
Now years later as my professional life has changed, I still see the lasting and positive effects the educators’ course and my contact with ACET had on me both personally and professionally. It is about far more than just dealing with a ‘health information’ agenda. It is about living well and with meaning and value on every level. It is about loving and caring for people where they’re at, regardless of where that is.
Lately I have been talking a lot with young people about what it means to live a good story with our lives. As the protagonist in our own life story we can choose to live as though our lives matter, and have a purpose and a meaning. Together we think about what it will be like to look back on our lives in years to come and see that our lives are about more than just getting through the everyday mundane, punctuated by a few big life events. To know that our lives are about so much more – where we experience giving and receiving real connection, meaning and hope through community in the truest sense of that word. This really is what I think of when I think of ACET and my experience of the staff that have given so generously of themselves and worked tirelessly to restore hope and wholeness to people’s lives. In the words of the author Donald Miller, “We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us that life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no greater purpose. It’s a good calling then to live a better story. How brightly a better story shines” .
I hope when they look back on their own story and the stories of those whose lives they have touched and shaped and changed, those who have been involved with ACET in any capacity will know that they have truly lived a better story and in turn have made so many other peoples stories better because of that. Congratulations on this milestone ACET – here’s to another 20 years of storytelling!