NEW LEASE OF LIFE

Centre that changes lives of reformed drug users

Government urged to entice drug users to quit instead of fighting to stop the drug business

In Summary

• The centre expanded its mandates due to the gap between drug users and those who have reformed

Reformed drug users during their sessions at the beauty corner in Reachout Centre, Mombasa
Reformed drug users during their sessions at the beauty corner in Reachout Centre, Mombasa
Image: MALEMBA MKONGO

It is 10am. Women stream to a building at the corner of Old Town in Mombasa. Old Town is undoubtedly one of the areas with high numbers of drug addicts behind Kisauni.

At a glance, one might think it is a market, but this is the place where lives are changed on a daily basis. Previously, the building hosted Reachout Centre Trust and also a health centre for drug addicts, since some of them shy away from the common health centres.

 

But a gap in the lives of addicts and reformers saw the building being turned into not only a fully equipped health centre but also a place where reformed drug users are given an opportunity to turn their lives around.

 

This is a place where former drug users come together and learn life skills that give them alternative ways of earning a decent living.

Reachout is a non-profit organisation that assists drug addicts to get methadone and access free health services without fear of humiliation and stigma. It facilitates the integration of reformed drug addicts to the society and also guides the reformed persons into the new life by teaching them skills they can use to earn, instead of relying on peddling drugs or committing crimes to get money.

The centre runs a beauty school for women, with the trainers being reformed addicts. Some of the beauty students are already making a mark in the world of beauty and providing make-up sessions.

Even though what they earn from this is not much compared to what they were used to, the beauticians confess it is fulfilling to live without looking over your shoulder while using or selling drugs.

 
 

Most of them tell of horrific tales of being caught in the 'drug-net', but all they have now is a new life.

Reach Out Centre Trust director Abdulrahman Taib said the centre was opened after seeing the gap after users quit drugs.

"We push for drug users to quit drugs. But what next for them after quitting?" Taib asked. "These are people who have been living on the streets. Where should they go after being reformed, or they should go back to where they were?"

 

He said if reformed users go back to the streets, then all the work done in reforming them will just go to waste since they can easily get swayed back to drugs. The director said the users and also peddlers need to be given alternative ways of earning.

"These are people who committed crimes to sustain themselves. You would not want a situation where they quit using or selling drugs and yet they do not have new ways of earning," Taib said.

Taib said they have also been able to support the addicts by providing them with the equipment they need in their works, such as makeup kits.

He said the government should now focus on enticing drug users to quit instead of fighting to stop the drug business.

He added that alternative earning for peddlers, especially women, will also give them a second chance and they might quit the business.

"Once we suppress the trade on the ground, big fish in the industry would not have a place to sell their drugs," he said.

Reachout also provides counselling to families whose members were arrested and linked to the drug business.

He said often, these families face stigma, making them vulnerable to barons using them to sell drugs.