Working with Nyaope & Other Drug Addicts
Working with drug addicts and users has always presented us with challenges. COVID-19 however, presented us with new challenges causing this group to lose their usual sources of income and support. That meant helping this group was no longer just about education and rehabilitation, but that it was also about survival.
Where did it start?
We have worked with waste pickers for some time, a group that is known for its drug and substance abuse. Living hand to mouth this group generally live on the street. They survive through meagre earnings and the support of local restaurants and other donors. Then along COVID and the resulting lockdown. That resulted in this group losing both their income and the support, leaving them starving and destitute.
Shunned by the local community who regard them as stinky, filthy and the dregs of the earth we knew we had to act. That meant finding ways to feed and clothe this group, ensuring their survival. As a result we set up a soup kitchen ensuring that they received at least one nutritious meal a day.
In doing this we soon realised that it was not just this group who were suffering. Nutrition had become a real issue in impoverished neighbourhoods like Alexandra. No longer were school children who relied on creches and school feeding programs receiving a daily meal. So we expanded our efforts and opened additional kitchens.
To the rescue
Running soup kitchens is a mammoth task that requires teams of volunteers and donors. Thankfully THE ANGEL NETWORK SA, AFRICA AWAKE and ATHOL CAN came to the resucue. ATHOL CAN, in particular, have been nothing short of a god send. Their generous weekly grocery donations feed hundreds of vulnerable and destitute community members every day. Importantly it allowed us to open additional “soup kitchens” where we provide meals for the area’s young children.
An unexpected benefit of running the soup kitchens is the access it has given us to drug and substance abusers. Harm Reduction services are provided through these kitchens reaching hundreds of nyaope, (a mixture of heroine, dagga and other harmful substances) addicted waste-pickers daily. As a result we are now able to build trust allowing us to assist them into rehab. In addition we reconnect them with their families and we give support to those not yet ready for in-patient treatment. Furthermore we assist families of nyaope addicts with counselling and access to other services.
Helping drug and substance abusers into rehab is our primary aim, however it is not the full story. These individuals are the pariahs of local communities and are subject to lynching’s, beatings and even killings. That means local communities have to be educated on addiction, treatment and care.
Our activities revolve around the education and support of the families of addicts. In almost every case they experience helplessness, bewilderment and trauma and they too can often be shunned by the local community. We don’t stop there but also educate neighbours and the community in general to show them how they can help in the fight to reduce addition and nyaope usage. This includes speaking at community events and visiting schools to highlight the problem and the dangers of drug and substance abuse.