Thursday, January 18, 2018

She’s giving drug addicts another shot at sober life

Pili in a group photo with some of the addicts

Pili in a group photo with some of the addicts at the rehabilitation centre in Kigamboni.PHOTOS | COURTESY 

By Devotha John

Pili Misana dreams of a world free from drugs. It pains her to see the national workforce being wasted due to drug addiction.

The 32-year-old mother of one felt obliged to intervene and therefore set up a rehabilitation centre in Kigamboni. PilliMissanah Foundation, which offers counselling to addicts opened its doors in 2012 with 15 addicts. The number jumped to 17,000 clients five years down the line. Their ages range between 15 and 55 . Today she runs four rehabilitation centres, three in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam and one in Mwanza. Both the addicts’ families and well wishers help run the centres through financial contributions.

“After seeing a good number of youth being trapped into drugs, I thought I needed to come up with something to help them get away from the malady. That’s how the foundation was born,” she notes.

Pili grew up seeing her father help the destitute and believes this has had an influence on her. A holder of a diploma in computer science, Pili believes rehabilitation is the best thing that society can do to help addicts.

When she started, Pili used to go to drug-prone areas where she would identify abusers, counsel them on the effects of abusing drugs and encourage them that breaking away from the chains of addiction was possible. The exercise also involved identifying those who were ready to quit using drugs and the ones who did not show the interest to quit.

“At the centres we probe their historical background inorder to know them better and come up with the best ways to help them,” Pili says.

After that the addicts are taken to health facilities for medical check-ups, where they are screened for HIV, brain cancer and hepatitis B among others. The screening is done for early intervention if need be.

Apart from telling them the side effects of engaging in drug abuse, the addicts are advised to make peace with their God since according to their religious beliefs, drug abuse is a sin.

“Through prayer and meditation, drug addicts have been reformed. They are transformed from worse to better,” says Pili.

Six months after they are admitted to the rehabilitation centres, the addicts conduct anonymous group meetings every evening to share experiences on life challenges. During the meetings, they give each other hope, discuss ways to solve their common problem and help each other to recover from alcoholism and drugs.

“These meetings help them to overcome shyness and open up on their addiction,” Pili says adding that many addicts become responsible citizens after rehab.

Running the centre is not a bed of roses, though. Pili faces challenges like paying rent among others. Lack of cooperation from some addicts’ families and community members is another challenge. When they return home, the addicts need support from their loved ones in order to make their journey to recovery easy. Unfortunately, some families still consider them addicts even after rehabilitation when they return home hence they isolate them. This makes them feel neglected, leading to relapse.

Pili is encouraged by President Magufuli’s decision to wage a war against drugs. She says supporting him to end the vice should be everyone’s task. She also commends the move to nail drug dealers, something she believes is a major step in the fight against drugs. However, Pili says this will only be a success if we all join hands with the government to nip drug business in the bud.

Pili calls on parents and guardians to be much closer to their children, saying it is through closeness that children can be taught good morals and get away from crime.

“Parents should not let the world teach their children how to behave. They need to play their role. Morality and traditional values begin at the family level, short of that is creating a society full of confusion,” says Pili.