I wanted to a moment to thank you for your very generous contributions towards my participation at the 2011 International Harm Reduction Conference in Beirut at the beginning of the month. It was a truly amazing and unique experience that allowed me to meet so many people from around the world who work in the same field and share the common goals of more sensible drug policy and more comprehensive harm reduction programs.
The pre-conference that I attended was hosted by Youth R.I.S.E and took place in Jounieh, Lebanon. Youth R.I.S.E is a youth-led international network which aims to empower young people who are affected by drug use and policy to effectively work at systemic policy change to ensure that young people are included in harm reduction strategies as well as within the drug policy debate. Participating in the pre-conference was an inspiring experience. I think that it’s important for youth to have a separate environment where they can speak about their challenges and strategize in a safe space. Together, we trained each other on the issues that were particular to the diverse communities we work in. After two days of capacity building, we were given the opportunity to identify the core issues we wanted to address at IHRA to help form the plenary that our international coordinator would deliver to the audience at the opening session (she did a very good job!). These extremely engaging processes, I believe, can be re-created on a smaller scale in our communities here in Toronto. There is no doubt that youth do want to be involved, and it takes more people such as yourself to gives them that opportunity 🙂
As a group, we collaborated to create a zine about our experiences at the pre-conference and about our experiences as young people at the conference. I’ve attached it above and I hope you find the time to read it! In addition, I was able to co-present with Lisa Campbell Salazar on Youth Friendly Harm Reduction to delegates from around the world. During the workshop we made a list of drugs that were not covered or received minimal coverage at the conference, but that youth frequently use. This shows that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of tailoring harm reduction information and services to a broad audience.
Thank you so much again, this has been a very valuable experience for me and one that I certainly will not forget!
For more information about Youth R.I.S.E please visit http://www.youthrise.org/.
p.s. more blog posts to come!!!