Local Rotary Clubs Link Arms With Club In Lusaka, Zambia To Help People Battling Addiction Worldwide


Drug addiction is a dilemma globally shared. We all have been touched by it and can name a family member, friend or community member who has suffered because of it. But it is not just in the U.S., it is worldwide.

According to the 2017 World Drug Report, an estimated quarter of a billion people worldwide used substances in 2015. Of these, about 29.5 million people were diagnosed with substance use disorder. Opioids made up 70 percent of the negative health impact associated with substance use disorders worldwide (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2017).

The Chestertown Rotary Club has coordinated with the Rotary Club of Lusaka Central in Zambia, Central Africa to apply for a global grant to provide resources in drug and alcohol counseling to over 25 organizations across the country.

Jill Gordy Jen Reider Melissa Stuebing Andrew Meehan John Murray.

This project would provide a training in “Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy”, curriculum materials and a small operational budget for expressive arts supplies for participating NGOs and mental health professionals for the purpose of enhancing the mental health infrastructure of local communities in Zambia who are reaching or hope to reach street youth and young adults with drug and alcohol addiction.

Christiana Rotary Club, Newark Morning Rotary Club, Kent Island Rotary Club and Centreville Rotary Club have also come alongside Chestertown Rotary Club and Rotary Club of Lusaka Central in this global grant application.

The curriculum provided by this grant is already being used in our own backyard at the A.F. Whitsitt Center in Chestertown and was written by Melissa Stuebing, CAC-AD of CoLaborers International. It has been the subject of 4 clinical studies in the U.S. and in Zambia by Melissa, Hjordis Lorenz and Allyson Olkowski Arnold.

The curriculum is suitable for participants with co-occurring SUDs and mental health disorders, as well as for illiterate participants and those with self-expression difficulties. It integrates cognitive behavioral techniques and combines 10 lessons using art, dance, game, horticulture, drama, handicraft and music therapy as means of working through the 12 Steps.

“The power of therapeutic metaphor is that if I tell you, “I’m going through a storm in my life” you don’t have to know what that storm is to know how I am feeling. The thing with expressive arts is no one has their defenses up against planting or finger painting or anything that feels as silly as that when they come into a session. That is what makes it so valuable. Through creativity, we make the decision to engage in treatment and begin to address our real issues at our own pace. We may not have words yet. We may not even know what we’re feeling yet because we have been ignoring it for so long, but that is okay. This curriculum is a beginning.” Stuebing says.

This curriculum includes expressive arts that are culturally specific to Zambia, namely lessons utilizing gourd art, dance, as well drum circles with traditional songs in the call and response style of singing in local languages (Bemba, Tonga, Lozi, Nyanja and Shona, a Zimbabwean language).

Substance use counseling materials are not widely available in Zambia, let alone materials like this curriculum, which is culturally appropriate, youth oriented and does not require literacy. The literacy rate in Zambia is 64% among the youth population (Education Policy and Data Center, 2014).

The most vulnerable population in Zambia to substance use is street children and youth. In the city of Lusaka alone, there are an estimated 30,000 children living on the streets (U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005). Children and youth go to live on the streets for many reasons – often because of leaving home to due to poverty, being orphaned by AIDS, or fleeing abuse in the home environment. Some children go to the streets just during the day and some come to live there permanently (Lemba, 2002). Early substance use is very common.

One in four street children admit to using drugs/ alcohol. Most popular drugs are marijuana & sniffing glue. This number of substance users can be estimated to be much higher given the stigma associated with admitting substance use/ dependence (Lemba, 2002). These findings are also consistent with reports from BBC News on the rise of street drugs in Lusaka (Matheson, 1999; Smith, 2011).

Together, we have the opportunity to produce grassroots sustainable change in Zambia to treat and prevent the disease of addiction, particularly among vulnerable populations like youth and children in a way that it is not being addressed currently. This training introduces a program that will continue to be a part of indigenous-led organizational offerings to unserved populations long after this training is over, changing the future for substance dependent Zambians.

Please contact Andy Meehan at ameehan12@gmail.com of the Chestertown Rotary Club if you are interested in helping!


About Dave Wheelan

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