Connecting local responses around the world
Vanessa Moorghen, Mauritius shared this experience with me during the Global Learning Festival in 2016
I work with Chrysalide, a rehabilitation centre for women who use drugs and alcohol.
From the beginning of Chrysalide in 2004 we structured the centre in a way that a person coming for admission should start her therapy the day after joining. This means that the new resident has to immediately take on the responsibilities at the centre including therapy, participating in meetings, seminars, groups etc. For some of the residents it worked but for some it was very difficult due to their physical condition including drug withdrawal symptoms like weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarohhea, flu like symptoms. Many of the residents or inmates complained that in Chysalide it was difficult to adapt at the beginning.
After listening to the feedback of residents we started thinking about what we were hearing. We set up a team to think on what changes to make in response to the feedback. We felt that we had to change things.
The shift came in our thinking came when we realized that rehabilitation is not for us but for the residents. It’s important to listen to the needs of the residents.
When a drug user is in stage of withdrawal, the first few days are very difficult. The wake up time in Chrysalide is 6 am. In Mauritius some female drug users get into sex work and therefore are in the habit of staying awake at night and sleeping during the day. Asking them to get up early and have breakfast at 6:30 am was unrealistic. We have a therapeutic tool, which we use here, called General inspection, which means that staff and inmates do the cleaning of the centre. This involves thorough cleaning every week and the new inmate had to join in this process. For a while this method worked as female drug users in Mauritius got into drugs much later in life like 18 years and therefore had some responsibilities and could take on responsibilities at the centre. However in recent years females get into drugs at a younger age and therefore have been in drug use for a longer number of years when they come to the centre. They have not have not had any responsibility in their life and suddenly they are thrust with a large number of responsibilities.
From then on we started modifying our rules and regulations. Now those who arrive are given time to adapt themselves to what is done at Chrysalide. They can have delayed breakfast at 7 or 7:30 am. They do have some responsibilities but are adapted to their condition. Tasks initially are not hard like washing the dishes or setting up the breakfast table. The new resident gets time to understand the therapeutic programme and participate in the seminars etc. Thus, the residents are more likely to be committed to their own rehabilitation programme.
I had difficulties in adapting the new way because I was used to the old way of working. Letting go was hard. What helped me were the weekly team meetings. Chrysalide takes care of its staff. If I had a problem I could share with my team. My colleagues gave me space to talk. I made it clear to myself that the programme is for the residents and not for me so I have to consider what they want.
Principle of Action : If we (programme staff) 'listen' to the residents and accordingly make changes in the programme, we will be more effective.