Detox program more “carrots”, less stick

TURN A NEW SHEET In Caloocan City, drug addicts are on a new path to recovery during the pandemic, selling fresh produce to their neighbors and friends. It helps them stay sober and preoccupied while earning a living for their family. —KRIXIA SUBING SUBING

MANILA, Philippines – They switch from crystal meth to “carrots”.

In Caloocan City, once known as a deadly hotspot during President Duterte’s War on Drugs, users wishing to quit smoking are encouraged to enroll in a six-month program called Carrots (or Community Assisted Recovery and Rehabilitation Training Services). .

Many graduates come out clean, ready for a new lease of life. And the COVID-19 pandemic has given them the opportunity to do just that: by selling carrots – and other vegetables and fruits grown by local farmers – to their neighbors and friends.

The program, called ‘BuyAnihan Palengke’, is part of Carrots’ follow-up projects for graduates. It was launched by the city government and the Diocese of Caloocan in partnership with FoodPanda.

How it works

It now runs for 11 weeks and is in part inspired by the Maginhawa community pantry where people gave what they could so others got what they needed. It gives graduates a chance to make a living, even to earn a living.

The humble market is based at Notre-Dame de Grâce parish in Caloocan and is bustling every Saturday by at least 20 Carrots graduates, according to program supervisor Skeeter Labastilla-Turgut.

Graduates take orders for fruit and vegetables from neighbors and friends every Thursday, which Foodpanda sources from farmers in the upland.

They don’t spend capital; all they do is sell the products and earn commissions. The initiative is not only helping graduates but also farmers hit hard by the pandemic, says Turgut.

“Anna” and “Kaye”

Those who run the market say they have also had the opportunity to reestablish lost ties with friends and relationships.

Among those who run the “palengke” is “Anna”, a 47-year-old mother who, along with her partner, was enrolled in the government program “Oplan Tokhang” in 2016.

His partner was killed by unidentified gunmen in July 2017 while standing outside their house with their two children. Very shaken, Anna sought refuge in the church to protect herself and her children.

The recovery was not easy, she recalls. Even as she tried to clean up, her neighbors and friends were suspicious and accused her of insincerity and a “threat” to the community.

“But when they saw how I persevered for six months, going to church and getting sober, I slowly regained their confidence and they started to see me as part of the community again.” , she says.

The same was true of another mother, “Kaye”, 31. She and her husband were also on the city government’s drug addiction list after a relative told them about it, but unaware of how deadly the campaign would prove to be in the years to come.

The two women traveled to the Diocese of Caloocan in 2016 and eventually enrolled in the Carrots program.

“Our hospital”

Their journey was just as difficult: no one “wanted to help us,” says Kaye. “They thought we were scammers and just wanted to save our skin.”

“Honestly, it was like the church was our hospital. He was the first to kiss us at a time when we didn’t have allies, ”she says.

The two Carrots graduates are still under the watchful eye of the diocese and the city government.

Since October, they have been bringing the BuyAnihan market to life with other Carrots graduates. Every Thursday, they knock on their neighbors’ doors or text their friends asking for orders for fruits and vegetables.

They are the ones who personally deliver the products to their “customers”. They say the project earned them at least an additional P500 every week.

“It also helped us stay sober by giving us an alternative livelihood,” says Kaye.

Her colleagues at the law firm where she now works as an administrative staff member consider her “a real online salesperson,” Kaye laughs. But aside from the money, “this initiative is important to us because it occupies our minds,” she says.

Modified impressions

Besides the market, Anna says, fundraising for people heavily affected by the pandemic is another activity for Carrots graduates. They often give away unsold products to their neighbors for free, she says.

“We want to change their first impressions of us. If before they saw us as a nuisance, now we are helping the community, ”says Anna, adding:“ Now they see that we are doing our best and that we have not lost the second chance that we have. was given. “

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About Rhonda Lee

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