'Hands across the continent can only be a good thing!'

In the Czech Republic pretty much everyone who works in the treatment system is a qualified social worker. The idea of service user involvement is still pretty new there, and Build on Belief was invited to pop over to Brno and talk about peer-led weekend services. 

The audience were fascinated by what you all do, and in true Czech style took an enthusiastic part in a workshop to design there own weekend service there and then! They decided on the training they thought they might need to provide; the contents of a service user contract; the activities they would like to offer - the whole kit and caboodle! There was real interest from the attendees at the idea of service users helping to create and run their own services. However, the best part was chatting to the service users who had attended the conference.

In spite of the obvious language barrier we talked about addiction and recovery (their biggest problems are methamphetamine and alcohol) and how helping to build and run your own services could be a life changing experience for everyone involved. We chatted about our lives, our children and our hopes for the future. In minutes we had a real sense of connection, our lived experience of addiction giving us a bond that had us laughing and joking with each other, as we swapped stories. You could have dropped them right into any Build on Belief project and they would have been at home in minutes.

There are also things we can learn from them. The banner image is of a delightful group of service users, many of them still using, who with a little support, have built an outreach team and roam the city of Brno dispensing clean needles and injecting equipment to those people who are using drugs. They build relationships with other service users, give them harm minimisation advice and help to plug them into a range of local services. How cool is that?

If I could have a wish for Xmas, it would be to travel back to Brno with a full compliment of BoB folk to help them set up their own weekend service, and to see what we could learn from their own, fast moving service user initiatives!