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Changing the face of addiction

by Archives October 16, 2007

NANAIMO (CUP) — Addiction issues are complex and the road to recovery is hard.
In light of this health crisis, a group of nursing students are organizing for greater community awareness.
Faces of Addiction was founded in 2005 by students who wanted to reverse judgmental stigmas attached to those who struggle with addictions.
“We started as a group of students advocating for a safe injection site,” said Johanna Taael, a Malaspina University-College nursing student.
“But soon it became apparent that in order for that to happen we had to change the perception of society.”
Two years ago, two students wanted to do their practicum at a supervised injection site in Nanaimo, B.C.
“They soon found out that in Nanaimo’s community climate, there wasn’t an agency to be placed with,” says nursing professor Stephanie Buckingham.
The students felt compelled to act, but they realized that they would have to work slowly to realize their goal.
Concerned students got together and began to organize.
They held workshops with their classmates and began networking with community agencies in Nanaimo to increase awareness surrounding addictions.
At that time the federal election was underway; the students attended the all-candidates meeting to lobby for greater attention to health problems surrounding addictions and for a safe injection site.
“Politicians from North Nanaimo had no interest in the subject,” says Buckingham. “Only Jean Crowder, representing Southern Nanaimo and Cowichan, was supportive.”
The students learned a lot about political action.
The group continues to promote health and safety for those with addictions by creating awareness materials for classmates and the community.
Last March, Faces of Addiction organized the distribution of 200 care packages to Nanaimo’s homeless community, including those living with addiction and mental health challenges.
Packages were donated to the “Living Room,” which then distributed the hygienic materials, dental supplies, first aid equipment, snacks, clothes, and stationary tools.
The success of this initiative has inspired the group to continue their fundraising efforts for supplies that are essential for improving the health of the Nanaimo community.
“This November, we hope to distribute more packages with more items,” says Amanda Tkachuk, a nursing student organizer. “Our budget is approximately $1 per package, so we rely heavily on donations.”
Working with the Nanaimo Street Outreach Clinic, the group is asking for any assistance that can be offered towards reaching their goal of 500 care packages.
“We are also collecting clean, new socks!” adds another student.
The group jokes that they want to collect enough socks for people in need to fill the office of Nanaimo Mayor Korpan.
Faces of Addiction will continue to improve access to services and resources for individuals with addiction issues. Their awareness efforts to eliminate stigma are ongoing.

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