Harm Reduction

Abbotsford conference a testament to youths’ capacity: organizers

Conference on harm reduction, mental health, foster system and more organized entirely by youth

An event in Abbotsford may be the Fraser Valley’s first youth-initiated, planned and produced community conference, and event co-ordinators say it’s an indication of the organizing capacity of youth.

The Abbotsford Impact Society’s FLOH (Foster System, Life Promotion, Opioid Dialogue, Harm reduction/Homelessness) program, created and organized by 10 Fraser Valley youths, began talking about holding a conference late last year and successfully applied for funding for the event.

The event was sold out by early this week, but another 30 spaces were added to the event.

RELATED: Bonds formed on Abbotsford’s front lines of homelessness

The Balancing Our Minds Summit, which will be held on Feb. 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Mouat Secondary School in Abbotsford, will include keynote and panel sessions, as well as two breakout sessions of four dialogues on topics, including leadership, personality/borderline disorders, naloxone/opioid dialogue, destructive tendencies, domestic abuse and recovery, gender fluidity, the foster system and lateral violence.

“The conference is actually quite spectacular because the funding opportunity was sent to me about a week and a half before the deadline was up, so in that week and a half our youth planned an entire conference, confirmed at least 7 different schools to let their students come, and confirmed almost every speaker at the conference (about 25 people),” said Marcie Pruden, regional youth FLOHcilitator in an email.

“If that doesn’t prove the amount of capacity youth have when they’re given opportunities to thrive, I don’t know what will.”

Organizers hope to get contributions from all areas of expertise, from lived experience of families and youths to professional experience, but Pruden said the main target is youth, “to not only give youth a chance to listen, but to also give opportunity to share.”

“This event is important because its letting youth stretch, grow, and take healthy risks, but more importantly, it’s giving them trust and respect,” Pruden said.

“We are hoping other youth see this conference as an opportunity to learn that they are all capable of creating something like this. We are also hoping our group discussions helps normalize, and even celebrate the topics we cover.”

Find more of our coverage on the overdose crisis here.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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