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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Saying no – Active Citizens in Muzzafargarh and their battle against drug addiction

“People who are drug addicts are most vulnerable in our society and deserve our care, love, and attention”

Says Taimoor Khalid – a young Active Citizen from Muzzafargarh. Taimoor along with four other group members is working with members of his community to help people struggling with drug addiction.

An idea takes root
Drug abuse has always been part of the day-to-day life in Taimoor’s neighbourhood. There is only one public park where Taimoor lives, and as far back as he can remember it has always been home to drug addicts. The drugs of choice: Heroin and Hashish.

According to Taimoor, on a given day it is normal to see 50 to 60 addicts in the park, abusing drugs in public. Over the years this has had the effect of desensitizing people to this damaging practice.

This is why when these five young people were asked to propose a Social Action Project in the final phase of their training, they chose to start an awareness campaign against drug abuse and to work together to help addicts recover from their addiction and to ease their path back into society as valued and contributing members.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the group was convincing families of addicts that drug addiction is a disease and people who abuse drugs require medical attention to recover from it and proper rehabilitation so that they do not relapse.

In most cases the group members found family members of drug addicts indifferent to the possibility of successful treatment of the addiction. According to Taimoor most parents argued that as long as their child was not causing any trouble they did not care. Medical facts and religious reasoning were used by the group to convince them otherwise.

In all the youth group met close to 45 people. Gradually the affected community members began trusting the young people and showed interest in their project.

The group members also spoke to addicts personally and tried to convince them to kick the habit. After a lot of visits 8 drug addicts expressed their desire to sober up.

Besides visiting families of addicts the youth group also visited the local public school, Government Degree College. According to Taimoor, illegal drugs use by high school students is rampant.

The young people discussed their project with the principal of the school who expressed enthusiasm and promised his full support. And so began the second leg of the awareness campaign: high school students of Muzzafargarh. The awareness sessions also included documentary videos which highlighted the perils of drug abuse.

The group also convinced the school administration to declare the entire school a no smoking zone. The principal of the school and some staff members promised to contribute a portion of their monthly pay check to the group to pay for medication and other expenses.

Finally, with 8 people committed to kick their habit the group approached several doctors and medical staff. They managed to convince a few of them to volunteer their time and expertise in detoxification and rehabilitation.

To pay for the medication the group made use of the money collected from the teaching staff of Government Degree College. To raise additional funds they embarked on a scrap collection drive through the entire district. When people found out why they were collecting scrap they happily donated unneeded possessions.

By selling scrap to local junkyards the group was able to raise enough money to meet their expenses and purchase the needed medication.

Round 2
After the treatment of the eight patients ended the group members made a point of visiting them daily to support them through the period of rehabilitation. They have also convinced the recovering addicts to accompany them on their tours to the high school and to participate in their awareness sessions.
Taimoor and his friends now plan to follow the same sustainable model to help other members of the community who suffer from drug addiction.


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