Following years of advocacy, the Student Recovery Community (SRC) now has a dedicated space on campus.
The new location is an important step in making sure students who struggle with addiction or who are in recovery feel welcome on campus, according to Sara Fudjack, SRC program manager.
“I always knew that a dedicated space was crucial to ensuring that students in recovery and who experience addiction … feel included in a campus community,” said Fudjack. Fudjack said the SRC is keeping its location private to protect students’ privacy, given the stigma around addiction and recovery on campus.
The first of its kind in Canada, the SRC initially held meetings all across campus.
“It was honestly just so stressful and students were telling me it just didn’t feel like they had a place that they could call their own,” said Fudjack.
The SRC took all of its programming online when the pandemic hit. But with a return to campus, Fudjack — along with SRC Program Coordinator Jennifer Doyle, Director of Student Health Services Dr. Marna Nelson and Chief Student Health Officer Noorjean Hassam — prioritized advocacy for a physical space again.
“It’s not only going back to campus like other students but [it’s] also returning to a difficult setting for trying to navigate their recovery,” said Fudjack.
Guy Felicella, a peer clinical adviser with the BC Centre on Substance Use, said having a “therapeutic environment” where people feel welcomed and safe is very important for a recovery community.
“It’s kind of that thing where you walk into a place where you feel comfortable because you know that people are there to support you, and I think that is vital, especially for you guys in a college campus,” Felicella said.
Students also emphasized the community’s need to have a space on campus.
Sylvie Foster, whose name has been changed because of the stigma around recovery and addiction, wrote an article for the SRC’s blog Academics Anonymous talking about her experience joining the community when it was still having meetings at different locations.
“It was just interesting for me personally to reflect back on just how much the SRC had to jump through hoops or appeal to people or appease people just to get to where they are now,” Foster said.
‘A real safe space’
Fudjack wants the SRC’s space to be safe, inclusive and welcoming for students. Community members can use the space to relax if they are ever triggered by anything and talk with others who understand their experiences.
“It’s always been about creating a space for a community that’s traditionally very isolated and tends to be excluded and just literally having a physical representation that says to those students ‘You do belong here. There’s a place for you and you matter,’” she said.
Foster said the space feels like “a real safe space” that allows students to connect better with one another.
“As someone who was part of the SRC before and then also while on Zoom, it’s just a different feeling when you can meet the people you go to meetings with ... They are people that you get to know well, because you both have this lived experience, and sometimes you just want to keep talking to them,” Foster said.
With the start of the term, the SRC is operating under a hybrid system, with meetings happening Monday through Friday.
“That’s a big expansion of our services, and that is thanks to the space,” said Fudjack.
However, Fudjack said the SRC is already asking for a larger space that could accommodate large gatherings.
“[The new space] is a huge step, but it’s not the end goal,” said Fudjack.