Phoenix women’s drug rehab programme celebrating 10th anniversary -needs funding

Sandra Braithwaite (left) receives a commemorative plaque from Dawn Cush, Chairman of the Phoenix Recovery Programme Board, in recognition of her 10 years of sobriety.

At 10 years old, the Female Drug Programme of the Phoenix Recovery Programme (PRP) is still steadfastly serving the community even as it hopes that the Government of Guyana can provide a financial lifeline.

Speaking at the programme’s anniversary celebration on Monday, Phoenix Chief Executive Officer Samantha Young explained that it is a daily struggle to keep both the male and female programmes open but they continue to hope that the money allocated for the PRP as part of Guyana’s National Drug Strategy Master Plan will soon be released.

“In order to keep this programme we needed the funding,” she said adding that the client fee charge cannot keep the doors open especially as several clients cannot even pay that fee.

The programme which was started in 2008 with a grant from the United States State Department has since 2012 survived on the kindness of several stakeholders included the Catholic Church which through the direction of Bishop Francis Alleyne was able for three years to support the facilities.

Other stakeholders include Bounty Farms, ANSA McAl, Banks DIH, the Beharry Group of Companies, Sterling Products, Toucan and Noble House Seafoods. Each of these supporters were acknowledged as was the late Pamela Mittelholzer who worked to secure the initial State Department funding.

“We are still hoping that one day funding will once again be made available through the US State Department to lend further support to keeping the doors of Phoenix open,” the CEO stated.

The Phoenix Recovery programme was started during an extended period of unemployment by Young’s husband Clarence who was himself a recovering addict.

The CEO explained that when she and her husband began the programme out of their hope, he had the lived experience of drug abuse and she had the experience of living with drug abuse as her father and three of her siblings were addicts.

 She noted that it was her sister’s experience which led her to convince her husband in 2007 to begin a female programme since no such programme was available. Unfortunately her sister did not live to see the opening of the programme.

 “My sister was the number 1 reason I pushed for this programme and two months before everything seemed possible she died as if she had no owner. Across the road from the block braced to the fence and died from a ruptured appendix. Today I’m hurt not to see her in the midst of these women but on her behalf I’ll continue the fight,” a tearful Young shared with those gathered at the Mon Repos location of PRP treatment and rehabilitation centre.

In its 10 years of existence the programme has treated over 35 woman some of whom have returned to their families and become productive members of society, some of whom still volunteer with PRP and some of whom have died.

One of its first clients Sandra Braithwaite, formerly known as `Cocaine granny’, shared her story of becoming addicted at 39 and living for 17 years as a “junkie”

Braithwaite, who for several years lived in  Le Repentir cemetery, noted that addiction is a family disease as it affects everybody and shared the story of losing touch with her son who was eight when she became addicted.

“If you have a family member suffering with drugs –  help. Addiction is not just the individual [and] recovery is not easy,” she said.

It was not until she was three years into the recovery programme that she was able to reunite with the child who had been taken to the US by his father.

Today, she has a relationship with all five of her children and is proud that her grandchildren have no memory of what she used to be.

“I ask my grandchildren `you could remember you grandmother as a junkie’? and when they say no I say thank you lord because I wasn’t easy. In them days when you hear Granny coming, move because if you lapse you collapse…I would thief anything,” Braithwaite said, adding that addiction has no age, no gender and no race.

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