On 24th October, 2018 from 9am to 5pm, Don Bosco Balprafulta, organized a Seminar ‘How to Handle Addicted Children and ‘Juvenille Justice Alliance Meet’ at Don Bosco Provincial House, Matunga. The main resource person for the programme were: Fr. Thomas Koshy the National YaR Director & Pioneer of Juvenile Justice Act, Fr. Xavier Devdas the Director of Maria Ashiana Lonavala, Dr.Sunita Shanbhag, Mr. Vijay Shankar and Dr. Asha Mukundan. Two staff Mr. Eustace Fernandes, the Educational Supervisor and Ms. Meena Kini the Counselor from Bosco Boys Home also attended the session.
85 members from 27 NGO’s from all part of Mumbai took part in this social awareness forum. In his introduction Fr. Gregory D Almeida, the YaR Coordinator and Director of Shelter Don Bosco spoke about the work of YAR at National level and various activities they planned for the children at risk at National level and how their forum come together to discuss various issues related to children at risk and how they can help them to overcome the problem and to empower them to become better person in the Society. While addressing the issue of addiction he mentioned “that addiction is not only problem of Slum children’s….but also school going children are also getting affected by it, and as a responsible citizen we should come forward to coordinate to eradicate this problem” He shared the story of past pupil of how a Shelter Don Bosco Master Krishna Gawli (18 yrs.) who was jovial and bubbly, always active and centre of attraction at Shelter Don Bosco among his peer group, got addicted to substance abuse and suffered MDR TB in which he lost his life. “Addicted children are traumatized, isolated, beaten and shunned by the society. If they disowned by the society they land up in difficult situation and their condition become pathetic. We can only win them by giving love” Fr. Almeida shared.
Fr. Xavier Devdas and Sunita Shanbaug, highlighted their insights on ‘How to handle Addicted children’ Fr. Devdas highlighted that in early 80’s street problems was visible. The use and abuse of drugs had crossed all lines of gender, caste, education and socioeconomic status. He explained how addiction came into existence: He said, “Street children saw wealth in the garbage and during collection of garbage they used to get leftovers of beedis, whitener, shoe gum, tukdis , petrol tablets to cocaine and heroin etc. and thus they got addicted to these substances and addiction among streets children’s increased in larger ways.” He pointed out that these range of substances that are luring people into hardcore addictions. While the entry into any addiction is very easy, but overcoming addictions become extremely difficulties: take one puff, time pass with close friends and small adventure & thrill turn into addiction. It possesses your brain and damages your neuro cell. He highlighted the lack of resources or support available for, and the need for drug rehabilitation centre’s, accessible to the poor and destitute. He also emphasized the need for a more human and empathetic approach towards addicted individuals.
He explained the scenario of the parent toward addicted child: For addicted person drug is not a problem it is tool of expression their sadness. One who is addicted expresses it by consuming addicted substance. We should touch the life of a person by going to his hurtful feeling to the grassroots (family trauma), family wound. Journey with them; spend time with them and waste time with them and don’t be judgmental. Say to them, “How many time you have fallen. But I am with you till the end”
Dr. Sunita Shabaug also discussed various physical, physiological and physcological effects of drug addictions. She shared that drug abuse creates a vicious cycle of negative effects that make identification of addicts a growing concern. She highlighted the need for early recognition of addictions. She shared the common signs and symptoms of addiction include intense cravings, physical dependence, increasing tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, risky behavior, neglect of responsibility and financial troubles. Brain functioning is reduced, leading to poor judgment and decisions, poor reflexes and unsafe behavior.
Fr. Devdas mentioned the real dilemma of rehab centre around Maharashtra. Only 170 rehab centers are there in Maharashtra and no centre is catering for the poor of the society and it become very difficult to poor addicted person to get treatment in high fees rehab center where they charge not less than Rs. 55000/- per month. He spoke about his own center (Maria Ashaiana) which caters for the need of poor addicted person of the society:
- He should be below poverty line, orphan, age: 18 to 25 (not below or above)
- The person should be willing to come and parents should not force their problems on the institute.
Addiction is an issue of concern. It cuts the society and builds barriers. It is vicious circle more of poverty. It brings about in the addicted a behavior of hunting for the stuff and involvement in stealing cash to buy stuff. The person avoids taking responsibility. He form new friends and spend more time with them. He feels isolated from the society and spends time in dark corners and avoids talking with people. His thinking process changes and makes him unable to take proper decisions.
Father Xavier concluded by reiterating that loving and nurturing environment and healthy relationship were important elements in an addict’s recovery. He gave several examples from his own experiences and work in Maria Ashiana to illustrate the principles of the Don Bosco’s Preventive System. He explained understanding and empathy through counseling, as well as purposeful activity can bring about a lot of change. An addict’s denials, defensive, aggression, lies, manipulation and emotional blackmail need to be dealt with loving but firm kindness. Love is the only solution to tackle the problem of addiction.