Rehab Changing Addicts' Lives

By Josephine Ngumba

Even as the National Campaign against Drug Abuse (NACADA) is raising a red flag over the rampant use of alcohol in Central Kenya, some two ladies are busy reclaiming what the alcohol menace has left behind.

The glim figure and statistics stare blankly at a region reeling with effects of years of alcohol abuse where there are more bars than schools, low productivity and fertility levels hitting an all time low.

The trio have decided to change the tide by walking where alcohol as traded and salvage albeit a few from the death trail.  They comprise two clinical psychologists and a counselor cum pastor.

Rose Kirungu, a former director at the centre and pastor at a church in Umoja points to an increasing need for counseling and rehabilitation as cases of drug and substance abuse are in the rise. 

A majority of the abusers and addicts range between the ages of 15- 45 years. Having worked at the only government rehabilitation facility at the Mathare hospital she says it is not only inadequate but it is crowded and patients have wait to enroll at the centre. 

“The desire to roll out the rehab services made me to conceive this idea in 2009.”

In their Foundation of Hope Rehabilitation Centre lives are changing.

Juma Rashid (not his real name) has been in the centre for one month but there is notable change. He came from Mombasa after his drinking became social and health hazard which affected adversely his work and family life. “I have seen remarkable change, I can read, write, eat and am healthier than I was when I came in,” he said.

Joseph Njihia looks far older than 40 years and he is yet to have a family of his own thanks to alcoholism. He is celebrating one year since he sobered up from a 20 plus year drinking problem. He has seen the best of two worlds. 

At his best he held a prestigious job with an international bank and at worst has slept in the dark alleys and trenches dead drunk. “The last 20 years read like a movie to me, but I did not realise this was how far I had gone and can not believe it,” explains Njihia.

According to Rose Kirungu, the addict becomes a burden to the family and the society causing untold pain both psychologically and financially. Having suffered an alcoholic brother Rose, has seen it all and would not want to suffer other families going through similar ordeals.

“An addict will sell households for a bottle of beer, come home beaten, bloody with scars and when he does not turn up the family has no idea where he or she could be.”

“Addiction is a sickness like any other and victims do not realise that they have a problem. They need understanding and not condemnation.”

The centre is in a homely serene atmosphere which gives them an atmosphere to heal. It incorporates different activities including arming, chicken rearing just to give the patients skills and help them incorporated in the society. 

The rehabilitation program takes three months after which the client is monitored upon release front the centre.