It has taken me a couple weeks to process my experience at Lightning in a Bottle, though still not fully. It was my first outreach event, the first time experiencing what DanceSafe does on the ground. The amount of love, inspiration, compassion, and sheer beauty that I have walked away with will forever resonate through me, and will continue to motivate me in my role as Deputy Director.
It was incredible witnessing the passion of DanceSafe volunteers carrying out vital harm reduction services to the LIB community. I learned so much from them as peer educators, and they had so much compassion for every single person that came up to the booth, which was thousands and thousands over the course of the long holiday weekend. They handed out free earplugs and condoms, kept sunscreen on the table, and distributed factual literature about drugs. The volunteers were approachable and experts on a variety of topics. Countless amounts of people came to talk honestly to trustworthy peers about taboo subjects. Strangers shared knowledge, experiences, and hugs. People learned from each other and empathized. It was beautiful.
Experiencing LIB from the inside, working in conjunction with the Zendo Project, RGX Medical, Plurr Angels, and the LIB Rangers, was beyond rewarding. DanceSafe is part of a harm reduction team that works to keep the people of this special community safe. I have built everlasting relationships with DanceSafe volunteers and other harm reductionists, and I feel as though I have created a new family. As I have heard so many others describe the LIB experience, it was like “coming home.”
As the stigma continues to break down around drug use, more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of harm reduction, of utilizing a compassion-based and judgement-free approach to substance use and experimentation. The movement continues to grow with festivals as large as LIB offering a full range of harm reduction services to its attendees. Passionate volunteers are needed to fill a very special role at these transformative events. In fact, DanceSafe will be operating a booth 24 hours at Oregon Eclipse, and we are still in need of volunteers.
If you recognize the reality that drug use happens regardless of the laws in place, and are among the growing population that believes that drug use should be treated as a health issue, this is a call to you. If you have personal experiences or knowledge about drugs or sex, or hearing loss or sun and heat related illnesses, this is a call to you. If you are a compassionate individual, a member of the beautiful festival and nightlife community, and you care deeply about keeping its members safe, this is a call to you.
The movement needs you. DanceSafe needs you, as we would not be anything but a mere concept without the dedication of the compassionate individuals that carry out our work. The community needs you to share your experiences and knowledge, to provide vital harm reduction services to keep everyone safe. They need you to hold space for them as they transcend and grow and heal. Will you join us?
To be a DanceSafe volunteer, complete our online training program and we will put you in contact with a chapter in your area. If there is not a chapter near you, we encourage that you start one. We give a huge, heartfelt thank you to the Do LaB for caring about its festival patrons, and for inviting DanceSafe onsite at Lightning in a Bottle. It is our hope that more festivals take this lead, where harm reduction finally becomes a vital component to the festival experience.
Madalyn McElwain (pictured second from left) is Deputy Director for DanceSafe. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.