By Okeoghene Akubuike
Abuja – No fewer than 30 youths have graduated from the Youths Living Above Drug Addiction (YOLDA) programme organised by the Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP).
Rev. Sister Agatha Chikelue, Executive Director, COFP, made the disclosure during the graduation and empowerment ceremony of the graduates in Abuja on Sunday.
According to Chikelue, the programme which started in June 2018, is aimed at helping youths in Nigeria live above drug addiction.
“We all are witnesses to the effect of drug addiction and substance abuse on young people in the country.
“The effect of drug abuse in the country is unquantifiable and we believe it does not just increase crime rate but violence in the community, as well as affect the health of these young ones.
“So, as a peace building organisation, we cannot just be building peace with religious leaders when we neglect youths languishing in drug addiction.
“We have to do something if we want sustainable lasting peace in the country at all levels.
“Addressing the issue of drugs in youths became a priority because if we help them live above this addiction, we would have saved them a lot of damages health wise and social wise.’’
She added that the programme would also help put the youths on the right track to live more dignified lives in the future.
Chikelue said the project was in three phases with counselling, dialogue, prayer and peace building sessions as the first phase.
The second phase is the medical screening and the third stage is the empowerment stage.
She said the beneficiaries went through series of tests including heart, liver, kidney and STDs tests to determine if they had been affected by the drugs and those with issues started treatment.
She explained that the empowerment stage afforded the participants the opportunity to identify skills they had a passion for and the organisation paid for their training and gave them start up kits.
Chikelue said the participants, made up of 21 males and nine females, were drawn from the FCT and environs.
According to her, the participants are trained on no fewer than 15 skills which include tailoring, hair dressing, hair cutting, makeup, cobbling, pastries, soap making, driving, photography/video coverage, ICT and solar panel installation.
The Executive Director said the programme was supported by the NDLEA and the Czech friends of the foundation.
She encouraged the beneficiaries to continue from where the programme stopped and assured them that the organisation would not abandon them after their graduation.
Chikelue also challenged them to act as mentors to their friends who are still into drug and substance abuse.
“Please promise yourself that you will not go back to your old ways; through the help of God you will be able to cut off from the bad company.
“You can even try to encourage them to start the programme so they can have a changed life like you.’’
The beneficiaries, who shared their experiences, thanked the foundation for helping them through the process of stopping and cutting down on drug and substance abuse.
A beneficiary said: “It was not easy initially because stopping something that has become part of you is not easy.
“But now, I can confidently tell you I have stopped taking drugs and now I have a skill for shoe making.
“I never thought I will learn any skill but through the help of the YOLDA programme I have stopped abusing drugs,’’ he said.
The highlights of the event included presentation of certificates to the graduates and cutting of the graduation cake.