London, ON is filled to the brim with opportunities to engage with its lively arts and humanities community as well as give back to the city that is home to our university. This year, our Community Outreach Coordinator Rebecca Jackson (featured to the left) will be diving headfirst into all of London’s nooks and crannies to discover how we as Western students can show some love to the evergreen Forest City. Keep an eye on this page for various volunteer opportunities in the community and check in with Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can join us in giving back!
October 2019 Community Outreach Event
London Ontario has some of the highest growing rates of HIV and AIDS in all of Ontario. This is largely a result of the opioid crisis and the considerable drug abuse problem that the city is facing. The prevalence of drug use in the lower-income areas of London, often results in needles being shared, increasing the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. As a student at Western who spends the majority of my days on campus, I do not often come in contact with this side of London, so it was shocking to hear that people in the same city as me, have to negotiate these struggles. As students at Western we inhabit and interact with the city from a privileged standpoint, so we may not come into contact with these issues, but we have the power to engage with them and help as much as we can. This is why I reached out to the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection that is located downtown and asked them what we could do to help. On the 26th of October myself and 16 others (mainly members of AHSC) volunteered to help make safe kits.
We worked with Fran who is the Coordinator of Volunteer Services; she was incredibly informative and friendly, explaining both the problems London is facing and what the kits include. The kits contain clean injection materials (needles, syringes, disinfecting wipes etc.) so that people who are injecting drugs can at least make sure that they are not putting themselves at risk of contracting any diseases. The kits are available for free at pharmacies, the Regional HIV/AIDS connection office on King’s street, and are used at the overdose prevention site.
Fran specifically addressed why these kits are a necessity, outlining that we do not know these individual’s stories or what led to them taking drugs. In reality, it is not feasible to expect everyone to simply stop using, however, these kits make sure that those who are using can do so in the safest way possible so that they aren’t at risk of contracting or spreading anything harmful or life threatening.
This is my second year as Community Outreach Coordinator on the Arts and Humanities Student Council, and this is the first event I have held that had a direct positive impact on the London community outside of the Western bubble. I was incredibly proud of everyone who came to the event in how open and receptive they all were. These types of difficult topics can often be something that people would rather not engage with because they can be upsetting, but everyone took time out of their Saturday to get involved in something that was truly significant.
We made approximately 1025 safe kits, filling 41 boxes, all of which will be used to help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS within our city. Despite these issues seeming distant or perhaps not directly relating to all of us, we need to remember that London is our community and that does not end at the Western gates or Richmond Row. By going to school here and living in this city we are members of the community, and this city does a lot for us so it is important to do what we can for the city too.