Bonteheuwel organisations join hands to fight drug abuse

Bonteheuwel organisations who deal with drug and alcohol abuse have now joined forces to fight the scourge.
Ward 50 councillor Angus McKenzie signs the pledge to demonstrate his commitment to working with the network of organisations in their collective fight against drug and alcohol abuse. With him is Maldeen Solomon, the chairperson of the Axford Substance Support Centre.

The efforts of a group of church members who started a support group for drug abusers and their families, led to it now being a recognised entity supported by the City of Cape Town.

On Tuesday February 8, the Axford Substance Support Centre, in collaboration with other organisations, launched the Substance Abuse Support Network at the Bonteheuwel Baptist Church. This programme now receives funding from the Ward 50 councillor, Angus McKenzie’s ward allocation funds.

The group started in 2019, after the church hosted a talk by Ellen Pakkies – the Lavender Hill mother who killed her abusive, tik-addicted son, Adam, in 2007. After the event, the church was overwhelmed with people asking for help – both addicts and their families. This led to the formation of the group. All of the volunteers had no experience and only had a shared desire to help. Some even had to deal with their own families’ struggles with drug abuse.

Since then, the volunteers have been on various training courses and workshops with the City as well as other non-governmental organisations, such as the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA).

Axford’s chairperson, Maldeen Solomon, said the formalisation of the group came as a result of its members attending a five-day workshop with all other organisations in Bonteheuwel, which deals with drug and alcohol abuse and its effects.

“We are all working together for one cause. We realised we can only fight this scourge if we work together – united in our diversity. After the five-day workshop, we now feel that we are equipped and empowered to make a difference in the community. The City’s department of social development made funding available for the workshop. Our slogan is ‘your life matters’. We believe that while you are alive, there is hope, despite the circumstances,” Mr Solomon said.

He added that they can only help an addict who realises the need for help and reaches out for it themselves.

“We create a safe space. We talk about everything. In most cases, we refer them for additional help as an outpatient, if not referred to a rehabilitation facility.

“Many of our clients cannot afford rehabilitation, as it is expensive. Some can’t even afford the taxi fare needed to get to counselling sessions outside of Bonteheuwel. We are currently in negotiations with the City’s department of social development to get social workers to be in our area more permanently. We walk with the client throughout – even if we refer them. We keep in contact and do follow-ups – even if they relapse.

“We have also entered into a partnership with Atvance Academy, which offers Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) accredited courses. Doing the courses will help them to secure a job, as we realise that many have no skills or are unemployed,” said Mr Solomon.

Melanie Hendricks, 36, is one of the success stories on the programme. She has been a drug addict for 20 years and has been in recovery for three years. Ms Hendricks said she reached her “rock bottom” when her then three-week old baby was seriously sick with pneumonia in hospital.

“I was so scared I was going to lose my baby. My marriage was also riddled with challenges. God saved my marriage and my child and I vowed then to change my life. My husband is also a recovering addict, and we both realised that we cannot build our family while we abuse drugs,” Ms Hendricks said.

Mr McKenzie said his office had funded various social development programmes over the past five years, and the launch of the Substance Abuse Support Group “brought it all together”.

“These groups will continue to drive the programmes we have done across the community to a wider and broader audience to ensure we overcome the social ills that buckle us. Our partnership with various places of worship and schools in the area will see a targeted approach to those affected by substance abuse,” Mr McKenzie added.