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Overdose Awareness: Abbotsford organizations gather to share memories, resources

Moms Stop the Harm and others spread message of awareness on International Opioid Awareness Day
A purple chair was one of many on display at Jubilee Park in Abbotsford on Aug. 31, International Overdose Awareness Day. The chairs signify people who are no longer at the table, who have died by overdose. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

A stage set up at Abbotsford’s Jubilee Park was lined with chairs painted all shades of purple, to mark International Overdose Awareness Day on Wednesday (Aug. 31).

The chairs were adorned with purple ribbons, cutout hearts with names, collages of faces, and information pamphlets from a grassroots group called Moms Stop the Harm. Purple is the awareness colour for opioid overdose; silver is the colour that people wear who have lost loved ones to the overdose.

Each of the chairs represented a life lost to opioid overdose. It’s an awareness campaign that has been growing across North America.

You would need nearly 400 chairs for each person who has lost a life in Abbotsford to overdose since 2016, when a public health emergency was declared in this province. You would need more than 10,000 chairs to seat all of the people lost to crisis across B.C. in the same time frame.

As people arrived to Jubilee Park, some of them carried in their chairs as Kat Wahamaa from Moms Stop the Harm spoke and sang on stage. It’s a group she never wanted to be a part of, she said, but she shared her story of loss in the hopes that it could save someone else from this particular grief.

Her guitar was covered with photos of her son, and she sang a tune she wrote as her friend Jenny Bice played alongside her on the fiddle.

They were just one group at the event, which is designed to spread awareness about opioid overdoses, the tainted drug supply, harm reduction and other related issues.

At one booth, visitors took the time to learn how to administer the life-saving drug naloxone. Free naloxone kits were handed out along with plenty of printed resources with links to more information online.

The groups involved included Lookout, Drug War Survivors, VYPER, Archway Community Services and the Lifeguard App. There were members of the Abbotsford Police Department and local paramedics there, as well as some local politicians.

In two tents, there were peers set up for anyone who wanted to speak one on one about drug use. At another tent, crafts were set up and people were invited to create memorial rocks with paints and other adornments.

The day was a chance to remember those who have died to overdose, while working together as individuals and organizations to help stop the opioid epidemic.

READ MORE: Black Press Media launches updated Overdose Prevention resource guide


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A worker from the VYPER program speaks on stage at the Abbotsford International Overdose Awareness Day at Jubilee Park on Aug. 31. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Purple chairs represent people who have been lost to an overdose, and dozens lined the stage at an overdose awareness event at Jubilee Park in Abbotsford on Aug. 31. (Jessica Peters/Abbotsford News)
A quilted message of hope was part of the presentation at an overdose awareness event in Jubilee Park in Abbotsford on Aug. 31. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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