The desire to make a difference – even in a small way – is such an incredible thing, although it’s often snuffed out by harsh realities and tough situations. For Northside resident Angie Rudderham, that could so easily have been the narrative.
Since 2015 Angie has been known across the community as a “Natural Helper,” getting up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to comb the beaches of Sydney Mines, collecting dirty needle sharps left behind by those using drugs in the area.
“I had a lot of people not understand why I was doing it. They were just really negative about the whole harm reduction aspect, (so after) sitting down and talking with the residents they realized how beneficial harm reduction was,” said Rudderham in a 2015 interview.
Nearly four years later, Angie is still pulling on her stick-proof gloves every morning and collecting the unwanted needles from Lochman’s Beach in Sydney Mines, fueled by the desire to make a difference and contribute her portion of random acts of kindness into the community.
However, after years of this daily routine, Rudderham noticed something concerning…
“I noticed there was no sharps kiosks or anything (in the way of) harm reduction in North Sydney, and a lot of people had no idea what harm reduction really was... Harm reduction is as simple as putting a Band-Aid on your finger.Angie Rudderham, Community Studies Student at Cape Breton University
Propelled by an assignment in one of her Community Studies classes at CBU to ‘create or promote a charity in an effort to impart fundraising skills,’ Rudderham jumped at the opportunity to partner with Northside Rising and our Rising Tide Projects to establish a publically housed sharps container in North Sydney.
In 2017, over 623,000 needles were exchanged in the CBRM
The Ally Center
Applying for a Rising Tides Project, Rudderham asked if local harm reduction advocacy group, The Ally Center, would be willing to collaborate with her – since the Ally Center has experience with establishing and maintaining sharps disposal services like this one throughout the CBRM. All parties were excited to be involved and this momentum allowed for other community groups and private citizens alike to support Angie’s initiative like the Rotary Club of North Sydney, the Kiwanis Ceilidh Golden K, and the Knights of Columbus.
Through community groups like these, Angie raised over $1,600 towards the cost of a new needle disposal kiosk. Northside Rising, through our Rising Tide Projects, covered the remaining $1,4000 in costs and the new sharps disposal kiosk was installed and can now be accessed anytime outside the North Sydney Food Bank.
Angie, through her people-first, educational approach saw a need in her community and went the extra mile to make a difference.
Angie reminded us that every step towards understanding our neighbours is a step closer to a healthier, happier community. Whether you know all of the ins-and-outs of addiction, or you’re unaware of the struggles one can face when they suffer from substance use disorder – each of us can connect under the common umbrella of our neighbourhood. Making a difference can be as simple as providing a safe place for people to walk through when they’re suffering.
One act of kindness or safe place at a time, people like Angie are changing the tide on the Northside and soon we’re going to see our community rise!