On Giving Back
High! Canada Magazine spoke recently with Sapha Habibi, owner of THERAVEDA, a craft cannabis company based in BC that believes in community and the importance of giving back.
Sapha thanks for joining us,, how did THERAVEDA come about?
When I started THERAVEDA the aim was to create awareness surrounding the many social problems we are faced with in Canadian society, the 3 biggest being addiction, mental illness, and homelessness. These are all public health issues that must be handled professionally; with proper resources and funding that could help provide equity and resources to those who suffer.
And how did your personal experience help others?
I experienced these problems first hand and through my recovery, I found a passion for helping others find freedom from these difficult problems. Many people seem to view homelessness or drug addiction as a moral failing while volunteering at tent city during the first month it started - a group of peers helped orchestrate the tent city as a protest to the housing crisis. Raising awareness to the community, to those who are street entrenched and allow for them to have a place in Nanaimo. That could be visible to the public but also protected, so we could actually show everyone how many people are without housing. At one point there were 300 tents, with many of the tents being occupied by 2 to 3 people.
What other problems did you encounter?
We had many problems with racist groups, the RCMP, hecklers and bigots who would even throw rocks and bottles at me while standing at the gate - keeping track of who is coming in and out. "Get a job you f-cking crack head bum", this is what people would yell at me!
We have been working every day to build and create an advanced outreach program, and an agency that could take over the "solid outreach program" that I was helping fund in Nanaimo. When "solid Victoria" cut their funding, there were internal politics and controversy between some members of this group, which lead to severance of funding for the Nanaimo branch.
My friend Kevin and I were so dedicated to having this service available - our dream had always been to use the cannabis industry to fund, develop, and create a new program that is now called New Leaf Outreach.
And what's next for New Leaf Outreach (@newleafoutreach)?
We are very ahead of the curve, we have an amazing team that is growing more and more every day, and we are being funded by Pasha Brands, THERAVEDA, and many corporations, as well as government agencies, who believe in who we are and what we are looking to achieve.
Last April, at the National Cannabis Conference, I said that we would execute this model and plan down the road. There were a couple articles in the New Agora that touched on my beginnings. This is how I got to be what built THERAVEDA today, my struggles and journey to a better life that is still very much a daily work in progress.
Right now, when we operate the safe consumption tent we have over 100+ users access this resource. Which says that there is clearly a demand for this to be offered. By us doing so, it is directly reducing the impact this issue would have on the healthcare system. By reducing the number of overdoses and reducing the spread of communicable disease and this is just the beginning.
What about your long-term plans?
We will be building a treatment centre in the coming 2 years all funded by the cannabis industry, it will be free for addicts to attend, many of them we suspect will be coming through our services to access what they need and we believe that through this the rules of "attraction rather than promotion" will help spark the desire for people to want to work towards a better life. IT IS peer to peer drug users doing much of the work, many of them will get clean and go back into service work, much like the way we are now.
Many of the people on the New Leaf Outreach crew have lifetimes of addiction and are now clean, hold degrees, are nurses, have families, ex-cons, you name it we all came out of the darkness and are here to love and serve those in need.
We want to connect with others who share this vision and goal, we want to help people who use drugs gain agency over their own lives and show the public how important services like this are.
These days, everyone knows someone who has had or has someone with substance abuse problems, we live in a society with the highest depression and substance abuse rate per capita in the world - there is a dire need for more resources to be available and what we are offering now is only the start!
Good luck with your future New Leaf Outreach program!