Realistic dreams for former drug addicts

Graduate Thando Ndodana, tells Vukani that he is a changed young man who makes informed life decisions.

Former drug addicts shared their poignant stories of what led them into using drugs and their journey to recovery, when Rebuilding and Life Skills Training Centre (REALISTIC), held a graduation ceremony at Vukuhambe Hall, on Thursday November 2.

The Gugulethu based non-governmental organisation (NGO) held a ceremony for 20 young people who completed a six-month rehabilitation programme.

The programme has numerous modules aimed at preventing ex-offenders from re-offending and building resilience.

At the end of the programme, participants emerged with a clear way forward of what they need for their lives and the broken relationship with their families to be repaired.

Realistic also runs a prevention programme at schools, where they equip pupils with skills and knowledge to make better life choices.

Many of the graduates blamed peer pressure, a lack of positive role models and absent parents for contributing to their problems.

Joshua Solomons, from Mitchell’s Plain, said he started using drugs in 2008, at the age of 13. His drugs of choice included tik, mandrax, dagga and benzene.

Now 22, Mr Solomons said he broke into houses, shoplifted and robbed people to feed his addiction.

He said in 2011, when he was in Grade 9, he was expelled from school because of his bad behaviour.

He said what had contributed to his poor life choices, was the fact that his parents had deserted him and his young brother at a young age.

Mr Solomons he had been left to play the role of parent to his young brother, which he was ill-equipped to do.

“I have not seen my father for six years now. I see life from a different angle and I want to use the second chance that I got to make something meaningful out of my life. My relationship with my mother has improved and I see my self being a role model in my community. I have learnt that there is no one who smokes tik and is successful,” he said.

Mr Solomons said in the townships people were taught to dream small and have small life expectations. Through the programme, he said, he learnt to dream big – and he had managed to get a weekend job. Anga Siguca, social worker at Realistic, said their programmes aimed to reshape the lives of young people and help them to make informed, wise life choices.

She said they helped graduates find work and some of those who had dropped out of school, even opted to go back to school to complete their studies. She said the organisations also provided out -patient programmes and visited schools to create awareness about dangers of drugs and crime. “In order for people to quit drugs, they need with comply to the programme. We want them to be better people,” she said.

Thando Ndodana, from Gugulethu, said the programme had changed his life.

He said he started drugs because of peer pressure and that he had reached a point where he was stealing from his family to feed his drug habit. He said he had enrolled at False Bay college to do a bricklaying course next year. Nokululeko Ncango said she was over the moon that her son had attended the programme and was now drug-free.