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Q&A with Co-founder Hanifa Washington
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to co-found the Fireside Project?
My name is Hanifa Nayo Washington, she/her/her/goddess. I'm a sacred activist and artivist and for 20+ I have worked leading and developing community serving initiatives and joining art, healing, and social justice to create a more liberated world. I believe in creating heart-centered healing spaces rooted in mindfulness and belonging. Psychedelics and sacred medicines play a major role in my healing, spiritual resilience, creative process, and joy making. Learn more about me here.
My practice of listening to my inner “yes” is what led me to Burning Man in 2019 where I met Joshua White. One year later we reconnected around the idea of the psychedelic peer support line. In November of 2020 we, along with the two other founders, established Fireside Project. On April 14th, 2021 the support line went live. Fireside Project is a place where I bring my whole self from my creative design work, to my Culture of Belonging work, to my heart centered facilitation and training work, to my organizational strategy and development work- i feel totally aligned.
Why is the timing of Fireside’s birth so important?
Fireside Project emerged during a global pandemic, at the height of a national racial justice crisis, amidst a worldwide mental health meltdown. The psychedelic movement at this time has also taken the national stage as widespread decriminalization and legalization of psychedelics grows. As we step into the actualization phase of the psychedelic movement we are seeing greater access to and more people using psychedelics. Fireside Project is a vital, free and confidential service to support anyone who is actively tripping, trip sitting, or seeking support for any past psychedelic experience. Not only is it responsible, it is compassionate, and normalizing to offer free and accessible psychedelic risk reduction services as decrim and legalization continues. Fireside Project is answering the call in more ways than one.
Who is Fireside’s Psychedelic Peer Support Line for and where is it available?
Fireside’s Psychedelic Peer Support Line is for
- People tripping now
- People providing support to others tripping now
- People wanting to talk about past trips - whether those trips two days or 20 years ago
- People who provided psychedelic support to others in the past
- We currently are only available in the US. Expanding to Canada in the fall of 2021!
- The line is open Thursday through Sunday 3p-3a PST and Monday 3p-7p PST. Our hours will be expanding to being open 7 days a week from 3p-3a in the fall of 2021!
Studies have shown people are increasingly using psychedelics to self-medicate. How does Fireside’s services work and how have they been made easily accessible?
How it works:
- Call or text 62-FIRESIDE > 623.473.7433
- Your first contact will be with a Connector who will access your need and then connect you to one of our peer support volunteers
- The peer support volunteer will listen, hold space for you, and offer resources
- 48 hours after your call you’ll receive a post call survey to share your feedback with us
- Call or text anytime you need support while tripping, trip sitting, or processing a past trip when the line is open
- The psychedelic peer support line is free and confidential
Why is emotional support so important to someone going through a psychedelic experience?
The basis of our mission is to help people minimize the risks and fulfill the potential of their psychedelic experiences. Providing caring and non judgemental emotional support to someone who is seeking such support during a psychedelic experience has the potential to transform a moment of possible risk, difficulty, and/or disconnection into a moment of healing and a potential lifetime of growth and connection. We’ve witnessed first hand that Fireside Project has saved lives and deescalated potentially harmful situations.
What is the Fireside Equity Fund and how is Fireside creating a new generation of diverse healers? How does the Fireside Project promote diversity within the psychedelic movement?
FIRESIDE PROJECT IS CREATING A CULTURE OF BELONGING IN THE PSYCHEDELIC SPACE!
- We’re building bridges with communities that have traditionally been excluded from the psychedelic movement.
- We cultivate a community of diverse staff, volunteers, and advisors.
- We create safe & brave spaces for reflective learning and transformational inner work for our staff and volunteers.
- Through our Fireside Equity Fund, we honour our volunteers who come from communities that have been historically excluded from the psychedelic movement, by offering financial support to those seeking to pursue careers in psychedelic wellness, science, education, therapy, etc,. Furthermore, we invite the schools and institutions that partner with the Fireside Equity Fund into equity and belonging accountability practices and assessment to ensure that systems of oppression and exclusion are addressed and eradicated from within.
How can someone become a volunteer for the Fireside Project?
The psychedelic peer support line is staffed by volunteers! When a person reaches out to us by phone or text message, they’ll be connected with one of our volunteers, who provide grounded, compassionate, and empathetic peer support. We are accepting applications on a rolling basis. Though we currently are only serving the US (and soon Canada!) we welcome volunteers from all over the world. Before applying, please visit our volunteer page and our FAQ.
What does the future of Fireside look like?
Let’s see…we're expanding to 7 days/wk, 12 hours per day by October 2021! It is likely we’ll provide 16,000 hours of peer support in our first year! Based on post call/text feedback we’ve received so far we know we’ve averted 75 ER visits and saved 104 people from physical or emotional harm. In our first year, we anticipate having 4,000 conversations, which means we’ll avert 768 ER visits, 1,075 injuries averted, refer 1,320 people to solid information, and provide connection, support, and understanding to thousands! We are currently in the IRB process with UCSF to conduct a study that will determine how effective the psychedelic peer support line is as a risk reduction tool.
Before 2022 we’ll be expanding to Canada! We’ll have official news soon!
Keep an eye out for the Fireside Project app release this summer!