Mobilising and empowering our communities seven years on

On the 17th of August 2022, SAMESH turned seven years old! Starting in 2015 as the South Australian Mobilisation and Empowerment for Sexual Health, the last few years have presented unique challenges for our communities.

In the days of SAMESH starting, there was a lot of face-to-face community engagement, in-person events and forums discussing health and wellbeing.

However, 2020 and 2021 meant we had to change how we worked to support our PLHIV and LGBTIQ+ communities. SAMESH’s Volunteer Coordinator Daniel Jeffries said the situation meant a lot more one-on-one engagement with community and Zoom meetings.

“We definitely had to be creative. A positive change to come from it was that for the first time in a decade the community pantry was available to access for people doing it tough,” said Daniel.

He said that community members really appreciated seeing the SAMESH team once a fortnight and having their dietary requirements catered to, with special boxes done up for vegans and families.

As we’ve come out of the height of COVID lockdowns and bigger events re-emerge, we’re seeing more engagement from our volunteers too.

“I had somebody last week bring us to present at a stall because we gave them some advice online with Grindr about Monkeypox. They heard we were going to be at Adelaide Uni and they brought along a bunch of rainbow Ikea bags to say ‘thank you.’”

SAMESH has also branched out to work on the Silhouettes: Fashion in the Shadow of HIV/AIDS exhibition, CONNECT HIV Self-Test vending machines and Poz Peer Navigation.

SAMESH Team Manager Skye Bartlett said these new and innovative projects are growing alongside the community. He felt Silhouettes was a world first in how it had people think about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the fashion industry.

“Nothing on this subject and scale had ever been attempted before. It inspired many people to think about fashion, and the designers who created it in a new way.”

Poz Peer Navigation has also had a terrific response from the PLHIV community in South Australia.

“To be able to establish additional HIV related support services in SA, where traditionally services have been cut is an empowering experience, not only for SAMESH but for the South Australian community at large,” said Skye.

So what’s next?

Daniel and our volunteers will have their hands full coming up to FEAST Festival, the Adelaide Gay Community Periodic Survey and AIDS Awareness Week. We asked Daniel how excited he is to be getting back into the swing of events work.

“Excited is one word,” he laughed.

“It’s usually pretty smooth. We always have enough volunteers to help, thankfully. I’ll be on to coordinate every event this year, and last year we had 58,” he said.

In light of our growing and evolving communities, SAMESH will be at even more events this year and taking more opportunities to connect with PLHIV and LGBTIQ+ people in South Australia, including with the Adelaide Gay Community Periodic Survey.

“We’ve been able to adapt and expand and fit the needs of our communities. It’s been good to incorporate trans and gender diverse people in our health promotion in addition to our more traditional work,” said Daniel.

“The community has really grown over these last few years and I’m looking forward to continuing to mobilise and empower as our name says.”

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