Since it was labeled a provincial emergency in 2016, illicit drug toxicity deaths have totaled more than 7,500 around the province.
Walk With Me is an arts-based community action project through the Comox Valley Art Gallery, and seeks to uncover the human dimensions of the overdose crisis, as it has unfolded locally in the Comox Valley and beyond.
On the fifth edition of the Comox Valley Record’s new podcast, Off The Page, which is out on Feb. 23, Sharon Karsten, the project director of the art gallery and project co-ordinator, Sam Franey, the director of community development, and Darcy Honey, the cultural safety advisor for the project, talk more about what their experience was like – both personally and professionally.
“We had about 50 participants in the Comox Valley and about 65 in Campbell River who were participating in the research, but then the sharing out of that research through the walks and the circles, we had over 500 people in the Comox Valley and similar in Campbell River, who came out and participated in the walks,” explains Karsten.
For Franey, the project had a positive impact on his life. He says when he first got involved, he was still living on the streets, and struggling to stay clean and sober. He didn’t see the value in what his experiences held and the knowledge that’s within them until he was asked to share his story.
“For myself, it’s changed my life completely. I hear my voice in the audio from when I gave my story, and I’m really quiet, and kind of really mellow and depressed, and that’s not me at all now.”
He adds that he can now see the value in what he’s been through and the knowledge and change that came from story sharing.
Being able to ensure people are safe and to be a protector of Indigenous culture are characteristics that Honey says were always in his heart, and felt that he was a good fit as a cultural safety co-ordinator for the project.
There were quite a few participants that would stay clean to be able to be part of the program, he explained, and were telling him that they didn’t want to get high, drink or be under the influence.
“They wanted to be straight and fully into it. And the walks really made a huge difference in quite a few of those lives,” he added.
“As somebody that struggled with addiction myself and homelessness and the struggles that we all deal with, people need this help and they need this program, they want the program. To be able to feel part of something, you can’t really ask for much more than that.”
New episodes of Off The Page drop every Wednesday.
To submit podcast topics or guest ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.