Free Margarita Charykova! Action of support
During the reporting period from January to June 2013 consistent work of the project went on. Outreach activities were carried out all week long. Every week we developed schedule of outreach visits, where geographic locations were tied to days of the week, this had positive impact on stability of the project and gaining trust of project clients. Thanks to this outreach workers can regularly find out and monitor requests of participants and the project participants can benefit from a stability factor – an important element in the unstable world of people who use drugs that has positive influence on their behavior.
Also a lot of attention is being paid to researching changes in the drug scene. Outreach workers regularly ask project participants about occurring changes and occasionally conduct exploratory outreach visits to new unknown locations, information about these new locations provided by the project participants. This allows keeping track of drug scene changes, help project participants and take action to respond to the drug scene changes.
During the reporting period outreach workers distributed syringes, needles, alcohol swabs, pregnancy tests, condoms etc. HIV and hepatitis testing was offered. Thanks to keeping track of the changing drug scene and trustful relationships with project participants outreach workers can promptly respond to changing needs of project clients.
The project team consists of experienced and caring staff members involved in the street outreach activities. Volunteers interested in drug policy and outreach social work with project participants often join the project team. Several volunteers joined the project team and the Foundation. This openness allows learning new things and passing on experience and knowledge. Also the project is open to working with journalists, photographers and researchers from medical and social fields; this allows attracting attention of the general public to the problems of people who use drugs.
An important source of support and resource for our project is support provided by people who use drugs at the outreach work locations. At every outreach location there are people from the community with whom we build trustful and friendly relations, who provide connection between the project and the community in the area. This helps us stay informed about all changes in locations where we work and enables us to respond promptly to changes while we continue working there.
One of the main achievements is the evolving legal support component and human rights support to people who use drugs. Priority direction for the development of this project component is project staff providing these services during outreach work and for outreach workers to become ‘street lawyers’. We have already achieved very positive results: a good example is the case of Margarita Charykova who was convicted by the Federal drug control service on drug charges and was mistreated in prison while having a severe health condition. With ARF support – facilitating legal aid through a partner NGO Agora and organizing public action and pressure, Margarita was released from prison. That clearly shows the potential of the outreach workers in providing legal support and advice on legal issues and community resources. Also it should be noted that the project provides ongoing consultations on legal issues during the outreach work and ongoing search for partner organizations that can provide legal support to the project participants and staff. Meetings were carried out with the network Pilnet and representatives of the web portal Hand Help; cooperation was established with a hub of legal clinics in Moscow and together with our partners from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network we have carried out a lecture for students from different universities involved into the work of legal clinics. We hope to have long term fruitful cooperation.
An interesting achievement was participation in the project Narcophobia in the alliance with the famous poet Delfinov that allowed attracting attention of many representatives of the modern art community and creative intelligentsia. A series of public lectures on the repressive drug policy attracted attention of the public and facilitated discussions around these issues.
Another important achievement was a series of seminars on access to free hepatitis C treatment in 3 cities of Russia (Tver, Moscow, Yekaterinburg). These seminars focused on limited accessibility of hepatitis C treatment and on the possibility of defending in the court the right for access to treatment. As a result of these seminars attention was attracted to proactive actions of the community of patients with hepatitis C and potential legal actions. The seminars were recorded and a video will be produced to provide brief guidance on defending one’s right to access to hepatitis C treatment. This video will provide opportunities for people who could not participate in the seminars to learn more about this.
The project maintained cooperation with other organizations working in other fields and providing services complementary to our activities and working in the same field and providing other services important to our project participants. Among examples of successful cooperation we should emphasize our cooperation with the Federal AIDS Center. Thanks to established contacts with medical specialists in the Federal AIDS Center people who do not have Moscow registration can receive ARV treatment. Another example is cooperation with the tuberculosis clinic 5, where several project participants received and currently receive treatment. We cooperate with the organization Yasen that helps with referrals of our participants to the inpatient narcological clinics and with provision of outpatient narcological treatment. Catholic Mother Teresa sisters’ shelter became an important partner for our project; they provide lodging, rehabilitation and socialization for our participants.
As mentioned above, community education is implemented with the resources provided by the community itself. Seminars on overdose prevention and HIV prevention were conducted. Community support in the organization of the trainings and seminars is a valuable resource for the project. These trainings and seminars are organized not in the office, but in locations where local community representatives live and meet: we meet in coffee shops or in apartments of our friends from the community. All this creates warm and trustful relationship with our project participants.
We were successful in securing funds for our Street lawyers project from the Levi Strauss Foundation, and we still have the money to pay for needles and other prevention materials through our Crystal of Hope Award. And we are still in the process of fundraising for our Bus through the GlobalGiving site - so if you want to help and further support us - please tell your friends about our work and ask them to donate and support our cause!!
with kind regards, ARF team