Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Northern Hussies

So, I did indeed nominate a sex worker for a Kaiser Foundation Harm Reduction Award. For the Excellence in Community Programming Award, I nominated Christal of Prince George New Hope Society.

The magnitude of what is involved in creating and sustaining an organization like New Hope in a small town like Prince George is mind-blowing. Sex workers are the most marginalized members of our society anywhere in Canada – but in small towns, isolation and stigma are hundredfold.

I have known Christal throughout her journey with founding New Hope Society, defining her presence in Prince George as a service provider for sex workers, contacting policy-makers and other influential persons in an effort to educate them and gain their support, creating programs and services for sex workers and sexually exploited youth, initiating fundraising campaigns and producing a newsletter for the organization, and much more.

I have witnessed the struggles Christal has experienced in finding funding to sustain New Hope, the emotional pain of losing women and girls who access the services to drug addiction or violence, and the burnout that is inevitable when working so hard in isolation for a population that has so many needs.

Through everything, Christal has maintained her purpose and determination. I don’t know how she does it. As someone who founded a similar service in Surrey last year, I am very familiar with the obstacles she faces daily and the overwhelming burden such work can create. I am awed by Christal’s ability to go on in the face of such hurdles. When funding ran out and support was scarce, I gave up. I found it too hard to go on and also be a good mother, partner – all the other roles in my life were impacted by my work.

But Christal has never given up. She competes for funding with an organization that focuses on helping sex workers to get out of the trade. Most funding bodies prefer such models to the low-barrier, harm-reduction approach that New Hope Society follows. But still, she hasn’t given up.

I have tried to offer Christal support as best I can through phone calls and email, but she works for the most part in isolation. At the end of the day, Christal is the only person doing this work in Northern BC. That in itself is remarkable and should be commended.

I cannot think of any other person who is more deserving of this award than Christal and the Prince George New Hope Society she founded. Christal is an inspiration to any who follow the harm reduction philosophy. Her hard work will go down in history. Her efforts will inspire similar efforts. She is a pioneer for sex worker rights.

Christal and New Hope should be credited and exalted, for everything they represent but even more for withstanding and sustaining in the face of such adversity.

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