Project to create drug-free environment

Back, from left, are Hakeem Edwards, from Rocklands; Tougheedah Samaai and Lauren McConney. Seated is Stanton Williams, all from Beacon Hill High School.

Mitchell’s Plain pupils wanting to make a difference in their community can now sign up with a new peer educator organisation to become better informed and capable of helping their peers to live a healthy life, build confidence and be of service.

Awareness Programmes in Substance Abuse (APISA) director Shireen Prins, from Tafelsig, launched the programme at Beacon Hill High School on Friday April 5.

Ms Prins, has already lined up pupils from Glendale High School, Cedars High School of the Arts and Beacon Hill High School, to complete the modules designed by her mentor and director at Siyakhula Trust, Gill Fenwick.

In the last two years Ms Prins has been hard at work garnering her relationships with schools, pupils, colleagues and partners to establish an organisation in support of eradicating substance abuse.

She had resigned from the South African National Council on Alcoholism (SANCA) Mitchell’s Plain after it moved to Athlone in 2017 due to financial difficulties.

“I wanted to stay and work in my community,” she said.

Ms Prins said APISA was committed to creating a drug-free environment in schools and in the community with its peer counselling programme.

“Our children and young people can enjoy their childhood and develop intellectually, socially, spiritually, emotionally and physically, then go on to live responsible, constructive and fulfilling lives,” she said.

The objective of the peer counselling programme at schools is to equip youth leaders in high schools with knowledge about substance abuse and skills to help their peers stay away from drugs.

The youth leaders will be able to refer others to appropriate early intervention programmes such as the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre and City of Cape Town Matrix clinics.

Ms Prins said substance abuse is covered in the school’s life orientation curriculum and that they would like to work alongside teachers and assist with pupils who exercise high substance abuse patterns and then refer them for help.

“These pupils will be ambassadors for their schools, attend workshops, be educated on the harms and signs of addiction, given life skills and taught how to deal with various problems, including HIV/ Aids, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and other challenges.

“But this has to be done with everyone, including pupils, parents, teachers, different service providers and resources in the community,” she said.

Representatives from Al-Anon Family Groups, an affiliate to Alcoholics Anonymous, addressed the launch.

Al-Anon Family Groups is for the relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength and hope in order to solve their common problems.

They will also play a supportive role to APISA, in the hope of starting an Alateen, for teenagers who are affected by alcoholics.

The anonymous members said they believe that alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery.

“Al-Anon has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics.

“We do this by practising the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic,” she said.

Twenty pupils from each school will complete the peer education programme for a year and become ambassadors to saying “no to drugs”.