If you want to help little old women cross the street, you don't exactly need training. You just gotta have a good heart, a friendly attitude and willingness to engage people. But the classic picture of the boyscout comes to mind. Nifty little uniform and probably even a special badge showing that the mission was accomplished, therefore bona fide street crossing expert! Show offs.
We all want to be helpful. But perhaps you don't want to limit yourself to just little old ladies and streets. Maybe there are other people out there that need help crossing random boundaries. If this sounds like you, and if you are reading this, then we're probably thinking the same two words: Clinic Escort
I met Kristen from Midwest Health Center for Women when I attended the NARAL Pro-Choice MN Lobby Day on February 23, 2011. She asked if I was interested in becoming a clinic escort, to which I quickly said, "YES." One application and a couple of emails later I was set up to attend the Clinic Escort Training Day this morning.
Downtown Minneapolis at 7:30am on a Saturday is rather pretty. Mostly sleeping and quiet. I was very excited and happy to find myself at the little short building amongst the high rises. Instantly I was greeted by our trainer, Barb and soon after joined by about seven other willing volunteers. We sat in a small room and went over our roles.
There aren't a lot of places around that perform abortions for starters. That means that many of the people coming to the clinic are from out of town. Between the one ways, the light rail and parking, finding the place can be a challenge. But here we are, human pylons decked out in vests declaring that we are here to help and YES you are in the right place.
So once they have gotten over the anxiety of finding the place, now there is something else to be nervous about... anti-choice protesters. Now, legally the cannot bar access to the building (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, 1994), but they can still make the last few steps miserable while they harass a patient about the unborn "baby". As a clinic escort you are to inform the patient that you will walk with them to the door and that they don't have to talk to anyone or take the leaflets from anyone that don't want to. You aren't allowed to engage with the protesters and you cannot block the protesters from talking to whoever they want to talk to.
So perhaps you do need more than just a good heart, a friendly attitude and willingness to engage people. Clinic escorting also asks that you be observant and notice those that are trying to find you and to also practice self control over your tongue and temper. For me, the first one is easy. That last bit is certain to be my challenge and my reward.