Dillon Rehabilitation Center Graduates 3rd Batch -As 17 Drug Users Walk Away From Addiction

MONROVIA:  It was an emotional scene last Friday when 17 young men graduated from the Center for Rehabilitation and Reintegration (CFRR), under the sponsorship of Senator Abe Darius Dillon and partners as the third batch in a series of graduation exercises of “Disadvantage Youths” who went through intensive detoxification and rehabilitation training at the Center.

Graced by parents, Government officials and International guests, the young men were enthusiastic and filled with joy while reminiscing on their horrific experiences as drug addicts, especially when Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, a vocal advocate for the rehabilitation of “disadvantaged youths,” motivationally made his appearance on the stage, underscoring the importance of providing support and opportunities for individuals battling addiction.

With applause and the chanting of slogans characterizing the graduates’ response to the Senator’s extemporaneous address, the Montserrado Senator applauded the graduates for their bravery and loyalty to overcoming their challenges, urging society to welcome them with empathy and understanding.

“To you, the parents treat your loved ones with care, encourage them, and do not be the cause for them to go into relapse. To the graduates, I urge you to be ambassadors of this place (CFRR). Encourage your friends out there to come to the Rehab,” Senator Dillon said.

Commenting on the two previous graduation exercises, Senator Dillon disclosed that none of the clients who graduated has gone into relapse. He further revealed that CFRR does not just rehabilitate but also follow follow-up on its graduates to ensure that they do not relapse.

He divulged the Center’s expansion plan, when he stated that Senate Protemp Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence has donated a huge space for the extension of the CFRR into Grand Bassa.

The graduation ceremony was attended by Senate Protemp Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, Senator Jonathan Boycharles Soigbe of River Gee, Montserrado County Superintendent Whroway Bryant, and the Ministry of Health Representative. Others in attendance were community leaders, healthcare professionals, and representatives from various support organizations.

Giving an overview earlier, Senator Dillon started by introducing one Josiah, who he said is a Liberian Journalist and a product of the Center. “I say thank God, one journalist is in the Center now, he will be reporting our activities; he has a testimony too to say what God is doing here through us and all of you, with your support. So he’s the MC for today’s program; that is why he is not sitting down in a blue t-shirt as the others are.”

He said the overview of the program was simple; that the occasion was the third batch of “our fellow citizens that we have rehabilitated and are about to reintegrate in society.” The Montserrado County Senator said none of the first two batches of graduates that the Center has produced have returned to weed-life, meaning the life of addiction and substance abuse so far.

“The parents, who were losing control of their children, are now parents again. You know when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus died again.   And the Bible says the wages of sin is death – this should make Lazarus sin again.” By that he was projecting the idea that there is no 100% guarantee to say people leaving the Center will not go back into weed-life again. But he added that the state of their being after their graduation from the CFRR is all left with them, with their parents, and their loved ones, as well as the society; the county and the government.

“In as much as those things that cause them to go into weed-life, the addiction, the alcohol are not discouraged from them, there is hope that it doesn’t happen, but there is a likelihood that they will go back to weed-life.”

Giving the birth of his vision, he said “When I was running for senator, I saw something that the country was on a down trend with, which probably we did not have time for. A country coming from war with no proper rehabilitation, people are traumatized; different, different society issues caused people to go into depression. Pear pressure, no job and people thought drinking and smoking their frustrations could take their worries away or will solve their problems.”

Sen. Dillon Restates Commitment

Amidst these situations that confronted and continue to confront the society, Senator Dillon said he committed to this country that we would do something about it. “And since we became senators, one of our only focuses has been to do this thing – rehabilitation and reintegration.”

Giving the strength of the center, Senator Dillon related that his Center has 17 staff members including five security guards, a medical doctor, clinicians, and an administrator; The CFRR also has kitchen staff, administrative staff and some medical people such as the psychiatrist and all who do the rehabilitation.

“This is what we do here and this is where I spent my salary that we committed to Montserrado County,” he said, adding that in the first batch graduates of the Center there were five of them that came from Bong County, although he is not a Bong Senator but rather a Montserrado Senator.  The Message was that his center knows no county or affiliation. “Some of them have gone back to Bong County and they have not gone back to the weed-life,” he reported.

“In this place, we know no partisan business.  We are blind to religions – whether you Muslim or you Christian, whether you know God or not, once you are a human being in Liberia or not, we can treat you here when we bring you here, free of charge.”

The second thing he said in his overview was that the Center feeds the at-risk youth undergoing rehabilitation three times a day and added that they are also treated free of charge when they are sick. “When any of their health situations are beyond the capacity of our clinic here, we send them to hospital on our account.”

Besides, the Center, he said, has recreation centers here where they watch news, they watch TV here, and they watch their football games. “We do everything to treat them as humans,” he bragged.

He then offered vote of thanks to the Board of the Center headed by Joshua Pope in America and ably assisted by Pauline Beyan and others. He also thanked supporters of the center at home and abroad and added, “The Center is our own hand pump – ehn everybody built hand pump ehn; this is our own hand pump – building the human capacity of our country and helping to protect the future of our country.”

Further offering thanks, Senator Dillon expressed felicitations to the Liberian media. “I encourage all of you to keep coming here to know what is obtaining here”.

‘I’m a bit emotional’ -Senator Soigbe

Speaking earlier, River Gee County Senator Jonathan Boye-Charles Soigbe cheerfully praised Senator Dillon for being a like-minded person who has been cooperating with him on societal issues.  The River Gee Senator exclaimed, “I don’t know this is a joyful occasion, one that makes one distinct in politics.  There is a saying and I quote, ‘the youth is the future of any nation’”.  Senator Soigbe, giving meaning to the statement, indicated, “If that statement is something to go by, then in our current state we have no future.”

He turned right, stating, “I am looking at my right hand and I see all young people. I am grateful to God, to Honorable Abraham Darius Dillon and his partners; we want to thank you for the passion this has made.”

The Senator who noted that he was speaking on behalf of the Liberian Senate then established how he felt at the Program when he said “I am speaking for the Liberian Senate, but I am a bit emotional.” He said he became emotional because the occasion has to do with youth training, and demanded the attention of his audience.

“Few days ago,” he recalled, “I was walking around a gas station and just in the corner, there was a young lady who has her own grouping she is rehabilitating; so I sent somebody there to visit because when I go there myself I know what will happen.”

The senator noted that his emissary came and reported, adding “I agree to submit to you, that three weeks ago I submitted a communication to the Liberian Senate that makes a request for financial assistance for all of those people who have their individual [rehabilitation and reintegration] places.”

Speaking further, Senator Soigbe disclosed that the Ministry of Youth and Sports has in its budget five million United States dollars for the rehabilitation of the at risk youth, stating further that all of the funds he mentioned will be used for private places such as the CFRR.

He maintained that there are people who have initiated their own efforts and should be assisted by the government too, because that is what the government should do.

He then expressed gratitude to the CFRR family and Senator Dillon for the initiative and the efforts at ensuring the realization or rehabilitation and reintegration at that level.

“There is a song that says, ‘see where he took me from,” adding, “My only prayer and wish for you all begging the youth not to go back to where they come from is for the government and other private people to be were prepared to assist them.

Leaders obligated the future – Senate Pro-temp 

Senate Protemp Karngar-Lawrence also made brief remarks, and re-echoed the magnitude of the drug epidemic in the country stating that the sacrifice being rendered by Senator Dillon and other individuals is for the next generation of leaders.

“This sacrifice is for the generation after us. We as leaders are obligated to ensure that there is a future for the generation after us. We will work with the board of CFRR to support the facility we donated to the center in Buchanan to incorporate girls”

The Center for Rehabilitation and Reintegration is a self-initiative by Montserrado County Senator Abe Darius Dillon with support from friends and partners both in Liberia and the United States of America. Since its establishment, CFRR has graduated dozens of young people who were rehabilitated by the professional staff of the institution.

Senator Nyonblee Kangar-Lawrence, who said a big thank you to Senator Dillon for his vision to rescue our young brothers, noted “I am very excited about this class because I have noticed this is the happiest graduation class.”

For this, she said she was confident that members of the class bear true testimonies and are truthful to the sacrifice which she said is for a generation after us. And we as leaders are obligated to ensure that there is a serious generation after us, she said.

She averred that Senator Dillon has taken that step in addition to what the government is doing, and that she knows this government has made a promise and not just an empty promise, but have budgeted some money to ensure that attention is given to at-risk youths in rehabilitation centers to ensuring our young people are reintegrated.

Confirmed the gift of a working space to CFRR for its operations in Bassa with the focus to include girls; and added, “I know there is restriction here [at the Monrovia Center] because this place is not too big to host the boys and the girls,” noting that she has the facility ready in Bassa and will work with the board and will support the facility so that the Center can expand.

She then thanked the CFRR team in Monrovia, stating that the team here is a very good team; that the team is professional and has done quite very well for the past three graduating classes.

“And we are committed to continuing our support. We want to say thank you to the board for their sacrifices they make – with some here and some abroad – but their focus was to ensure that the program works,” she concluded.

“Addition is no solution” – Former Graduate

A former graduate of the Center, Joe T. Richards who served as motivational speaker at the program, said one’s situation is unresolved no matter the volume of substances they take. He said he went through it when he returned from the United States and could not be given the chance to return.

“My life has not been too good, my life has had my demons, but yet I still face my demons and I have overcome them by the grace of God. I travelled to the states and I came back to learn.  I came back from the states after learning but to go back has been difficult and so I am still here.  To set my mind off America, I decided to use the substances, but the more I used the substances, the more situations got worse for me and I started to worry more,” he explained.

He said he thought using the substance would alleviate his stress but found out that it wasn’t alleviating his stress; it was instead just making it worse. “The more I consumed, the more I stressed myself and faded away.  Then I decided to stop it. It was then that I joined the CFRR. Senator Dillon, the Center and the board did well for us.  When I came here no one forced me to come; I came by myself,” he clarified.

Joe T. Richards said the advice he has for his friends and colleagues is, “Never let your feelings override your minds; let your minds take control of you.  Know the kind of friend to influence you negatively. When I came here, I was my own friend so I ask you to be strong, to let your feelings die and let your minds take control.” He counseled.

“Fight is not one-sided” –Health Official

Also a representative from the Ministry of Health, Dr. Moses Ziah who is a Chief of Mental Health said the fight is not one-sided; it is all over. For that reason the Ministry of health designed a comprehensive intervention, and this intervention targets prevention, treatment and recovery.  So as technicians our design is primary prevention, dealing with the rest of the young people who have not started drugs so that they will never start.

The Ministry’s approach, he further said, is “we have been going to schools, making radio and TV appearances; we’ve been going to churches putting the message out there that drugs are dangerous and the use of these substances will destroy you as young people.”

There were other dignitaries that graced the occasion, including a member of the Board of the CFRR from the Liberia Nurses Association–USA who congratulated the graduates, and the Superintendent of Montserrado County including Mr. Tucker, the Director of the Center.

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