Faculty of Law student Tajdeep Singh Sandhu working to combat BC’s drug toxicity crisis

Gerald L. Gall OC Global Community Services Grant supports law student’s efforts to provide overdose response training to South Asian communities

Mita de la Fuente - 28 November 2023

University of Alberta Faculty of Law student Tajdeep Singh Sandhu is helping to break the stigma around the drug toxicity crisis by raising awareness and providing overdose response training in British Columbia’s South Asian communities.

He is one of two recipients of the 2023 Gerald L. Gall OC Global Community Services Grant.

The grant is named in honour of Professor Gerald Gall, OC a longtime Faculty of Law instructor and constitutional law expert renowned for his deep commitment to the advancement of human rights. 

Recently, Sandhu used this grant to expand the outreach efforts of Students Overcoming Substance Use Disorder & Addictions (SOUDA).

SOUDA is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the drug toxicity crisis. The organization provides crucial information on opioid overdose response, substance use and prevention within the South Asian communities of Lower Mainland, BC. 

whatsapp-image-2023-08-22-at-11.58.22.jpegAccording to Sandhu, the organization focused its efforts on the South Asian community because knowledge about drug toxicity and overdose response is limited due to social taboos and language barriers.

“Our main goal is to fill systemic gaps and make these resources accessible in a culturally and language-friendly manner,” he says. “This ultimately fosters a greater understanding of the crisis, how to combat it and how to seek help.” 

Since joining SOUDA in 2020, Sandhu has dedicated his summer months to hosting booths at various Gurdwaras and local festivals organized by the Fijian and African diasporic communities. Alongside other volunteers, he offers educational information, conducts live demonstrations and distributes naloxone kits free of charge.

With an increased focus on engaging youth and community members, Sandhu has been leading Train the Trainer sessions, equipping new volunteers and participants from the public with a high level of understanding related to overdose response and prevention.

“SOUDA has not only provided me with information about the drug toxicity crisis but also numerous practical experiences and anecdotes. Through these experiences, I have interacted firsthand with individuals and families dealing with substance abuse," he says. "This has made me realize the true gravitas of the crisis, and has made me even more dedicated to our cause of harm reduction and raising awareness."

whatsapp-image-2023-08-22-at-11.58.24.jpegWith the Gerald L. Gall OC Global Community Services Grant funding, SOUDA was able to expand its outreach activities by purchasing additional supplies for their booths, producing pamphlets in various languages and providing honoraria to speakers at events.

SOUDA's goal is to extend operations beyond the Lower Mainland region to other parts of the province, including Vancouver Island, and Northern and Interior BC. The grant will also aid in this expansion by covering future transportation and logistical costs.

“I am very thankful to the university and my faculty for supporting me in these efforts to combat the drug toxicity crisis in BC,” he says. “The Gall Grant provides immense encouragement and assistance to law students who wish to continue with community service alongside their legal studies.”