Changing lives - case study 2

Drugs

The La Roca Community, Viña del Mar, Chile.

La Roca began after much discussion and prayer as concerned Christians in Viña del Mar, Chile saw young people turning away from their drug addiction when they became church members, but later leaving the church and going back to drugs. They felt these young people were not supported enough in their everyday lives. Their spiritual growth was not sufficient to keep them from falling back into old ways.

In 1982 the La Roca community was founded – at first with seven adults and five children – as a community of faith, love and work. Since then we have helped hundreds of youngsters to overcome their dependency. Our success is based on a combination of our Christian faith and professional expertise. We know that well-being is more than just the absence of illness. All-round good health involves spiritual, emotional, physical and social well-being. As we say in our publicity leaflets, ‘ a person can only be healthy if they are in harmony with God, with themselves, with those around them and also with their environment’.

We take in young men between the ages of 16 and 25 who have a clear desire to be free from drugs and are of normal intelligence. They must complete a questionnaire and come for a personal interview before being accepted. We know we can only help and support them if they really want help. We run an ‘open door’ system, not a prison.

Once accepted, they stay for a minimum of six months as residents in the community. This is based on two foundations:

Spiritual inspiration – in which, through prayer and Bible study, they can find trust and strength in the love and power of God to help them solve their problems.

Support therapy Through group-work they find the acceptance and support needed to look at their problems and find solutions. Sometimes the group can work as a kind of ‘theatre’ where each person can practise new ways of behaving before needing to try these out in the outside world. On the one-to-one basis the young people receive medical attention, counselling, follow-up and family therapy.

As one of our ex-addicts said, ‘We must find God and find work.’ We provide a programme for work rehabilitation, which involves working as a community, learning to use free time, and helping each member to discover and use their skills and gifts. This helps to provide a source of income, both for individuals and for the community. We run a variety of workshops, such as carpentry, shoemaking and baking. At first, members try them all – then choose the one they prefer and learn the skills necessary for that work. Our methods help them get back into the routine of work. This is very important as they have often lost even the most basic personal discipline. We also try to arrange activities that will encourage the spiritual, cultural and social development of each member of the community. So we bring them into contact with art, drama and literature. We arrange visits to other groups and to families.

Meanwhile, we actively participate in the prevention of drug addiction in the wider community. Members give talks and short courses in churches and schools. We also prepare written material about drugs and their consequences for individuals and society.

We find it best to work in a team, combining people with professional and technical skills with ex-addicts who show from their own experience how people can really change. We follow the advice of Dr Doris Amaya, who with 30 years of experience in this field says, ‘The most successful programmes have a treatment team made up of professional people, some of whom are ex-addicts and some of whom are not. The symptoms of addiction are easy to reactivate if the staff are all ex-addicts. To avoid this, it is better to balance the two types of professionals. The ex-addicts should have been rehabilitated for at least five years.’

Dr Amaya also believes that, ‘The programmes which combine science with belief in God have had the most success. Some programmes use only the Bible and prayer to obtain the addict’s recovery. They think that if a person becomes a Christian, that person will no longer take drugs. However, programmes which use only religion to obtain recovery, do not always function in the long term. The power of God has to do with being guided by his hand with scientific knowledge so that recovery occurs.’

We are an open organisation and welcome visits from churches, academics and others. We also encourage exchanges between our staff and those in other drug rehabilitation projects.

Why do we call ourselves ‘La Roca’?

The words…

  • Reflexión (Reflection)
  • Oración (Prayer)
  • Comunión (Communion)
  • Amor (Love)

…together make ROCA – the Rock which is Christ.

Roberto Parra is the Director of La Roca, which runs several projects in Chile for the rehabilitation of drug addicts. La Roca, Anwandter 77, Viña del Mar, Chile.