I’m very happy to introduce you all to SSDP’s first chapter in Eastern Europe: SSDP Belgrade! They have had six meetings so far and have really hit the ground running the last few months. The chapter has some exciting plans coming up that they would like to share with the rest of the SSDP network.
How did you hear about SSDP?
From Sara Velimirovic, who has interned for SSDP as an UNGASS coordinator and is currently on the Board of Directors.
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
Given that institutions do not provide information and efficient services around drugs, we recognized it is in our hands to offer an initiative to change our community’s approach to drugs. We want to battle stigma, raise awareness about how to safely use drugs, and, in the long term, affect a rethinking of the institutional framework.
What has the reception been like in the community?
Considering that we formed this group recently we are very pleased with the response. Notably, we have new members each meeting, and we are already in contact with a drug policy reform organization in Serbia called “Regeneration” who have been around since 2011.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
Currently, we are focusing on making a harm reduction booklet about drugs, much like the ACLU guide for civil rights. We recognized that this is a great first activity because it is effective and crucial to our context given that people do not have information about drug abuse. Next activity we would like to focus our efforts on is a panel at one of the universities in Belgrade as our first contact with the public. We are also looking into translating and publishing books about drug policy reform into Serbian, such as Carl Hart’s book High Price. This could also have a positive impact on the region as books published in our language are easily understood by our neighbors like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Due to different backgrounds and interests of our members, the challenge so far was integrating all of the different ideas and approaches into a comprehensive agenda. We also recognize that this diversity could be a great advantage to our group.
What is the most rewarding part?
The idea that we can make a positive impact on our surroundings and society. We are growing in number almost every meeting and it is rewarding to see our motivation being spread to our friends and acquaintances.
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?
Seeing it grow and reaching other young people that are motivated to start a conversation.
What is your vision for SSDP Belgrade SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
In a year we see our chapter having consistent meetings and many activities and partnerships in motion. We see a solid grounding of the chapter with several coordinators that have switched down the road to ensure fresh energy and outlook, as well as an opportunity for as many people possible to gain new skills. We also see several of our members attending the SSDP conference in March 2017.
In 4 to 5 years we see our chapter establishing a firm and sustainable presence in several universities, as well as being a key player in discussions about legislative reform.
Thank you for the support! We are looking forward to connecting with the rest of the SSDP family!