Joseph is a 45 year old homeless man who has lived on a using site for 25 years. He has no family that he has contact with, and his home consists of a makeshift shelter of cardboard and plastic sheeting that provides some protection from the elements, but not protecting him from the common theft of his clothes and shoes. He is a remarkable man, gentle and humble, yet when the need arises he is more than capable of asserting himself and has earned considerable respect among members of his own maskani. He met with INPUD staff during an in country visit in January 2013. It was an impromptu meeting, not part of any arranged programme, simply a street meeting consisting of a simple introduction.
He became fascinated by the concept of reducing harm not only with his own drug use, but also of that of his peers.
We met many times; eventually he began attending the local harm reduction services. He is now a trained peer outreach worker and has the position of Treasurer within the peer-based network in Tanzania. He is now actively involved in the building and strengthening of the relationship between INPUD and the Kenyan and Tanzanian networks.
INPUD and harm reduction makes sense to him. He has become a passionate and devoted activist spending much of his time accompanying his peers to the health centres and harm reduction services when their health is suffering and when they need medical attention.
There are many individuals such as Joseph. Sometimes the INPUD list is the only way of highlighting and acknowledging the amazing selfless work they do. To see this man have hope for the first time in many years, is the very essence of INPUD’s involvement within the Bridging the Gaps’ in-country work. INPUD’s global level advocacy work, capacity development, regional network development, incorporation, challenging stigma and discrimination, drug law reform, is all vital work, but it is equally important to note the life changing impact that the work that INPUD has undertaken within Bridging the Gaps has on the communities, and the individuals that are still hidden from view.
Text by Mick Webb, INPUD