The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Former Addict Saves Teenage Drug Users

SOMETIMES, all it takes is one person to stand up and say "No more!" for change to start manifesting itself - be it in a household, community, or even a country.

One such person is 38-year-old Lyndon van Wyk, who grew up in Windhoek's Donkerhoek suburb in the Khomasdal residential area.

Van Wyk is the second oldest amongst his siblings. He has two brothers and one sister.

He began experimenting with drugs at the tender age of 13, and indulged in mandrax, marijuana and cocaine - something which, sadly, seems to befall too many young men growing up in this area.

He battled with drug addiction for many years, and finally, just when he thought he had broken free, he became dependent on alcohol.

"In order to make money to support this urge I constantly had for alcohol, I got mixed up in criminal activities as well," Van Wyk recalls.

He told Nampa in an interview on that along the way, he risked losing everything - his home, his relationship with family members, his social standing with friends and his self-esteem.

Fortunately, a friend stepped in and encouraged him to break the cycle of alcohol addiction and get back on track.

"I enrolled at a rehabilitation centre and the Philippi Trust for counselling. I left the rehabilitation centre a changed man, repented and gave my life to God," says Van Wyk, who is now a church-going man.

After liberating himself from 15 years of alcohol and drug abuse, Van Wyk is now seen as a source of hope for 30 youngsters from Khomasdal trapped in the vicious cycle of drug abuse.

"The difference you make in the lives of others will determine the significance of the life you lead," he states.

It is this belief that led him to establish an organisation called 'Operation World View'.

The organisation was founded in May 2012, and helps adolescents addicted to drugs and alcohol, mainly in the Khomasdal community, by empowering and equipping them with entrepreneurial skills, personal growth, leadership training, counselling, group therapy and behaviour change programmes.

Van Wyk says during school holidays, 15 boys are sent to Rock Lodge outside Okahandja for three days, during which they receive leadership training. The training focuses on the boys' self-esteem, productivity, motivation, confidence and competence.

During these excursions the boys also take part in games such as finding objects or walking for a distance carrying heavy objects to test their endurance.

Van Wyk says he could only afford to take the boys on two trips so far due to a lack of money. The two trips were funded by Streethouse clothing shop and Ricardo Michael Architects.

The boys are between 13 and 20 years old, and sadly, many of them have also dropped out of school and never attempted to go back.

"Khomasdal has become a hub of drugs, where druglords are using these vulnerable youngsters to do their dirty work of selling drugs for them. This vicious cycle has also become a headache for parents who do not know what to do to improve the situation," Van Wyk says.

Having gone through something similar himself, the situation worried him so much that he felt the need to step up and do something.

"Most of the boys grow up in poverty-stricken households, with a lack of love, support and assistance from their parents," he says.

In some homes, the adults who should be guiding the boys are themselves trapped in the vicious cycle of alcohol and drug abuse and so cannot offer these youngsters the much-needed support.

One of the recipients of the mentorship programme told Nampa that his life changed for the better thanks to Van Wyk.

There are a multitude of reasons why young people fall into using drugs, and in this case, peer pressure from his friends is what led to this 13-year-old smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol.

Fortunately, he had only been involved in these activities for around three months when he was approached by Van Wyk while smoking in the street.

"Since I received training and counselling from Operation World View, I have stopped smoking and I have gone back to school," says the boy proudly.

Another young man says he sold crack cocaine for dealers in Khomasdal, which led to him dropping out of school in Grade Nine.

"I too was found by Van Wyk on the streets of Donkerhoek. His programme was a life-saving tool and now I am ready to go out into the job market and look for employment," says the 20-year-old ex-addict.

The youngster called on teenagers caught up in the same situation to wake up and rather focus on getting a better future through education.

Van Wyk has vowed to extend his programme to other neighbourhoods in the near future but is appealing to donors to extend a helping hand.

"These boys' lifestyles have changed, and most went back to school and others now live a lifestyle better than before when they were doing drugs," he says proudly.

Van Wyk, who is single with no children, is also looking forward to completing his Bachelor of Theology degree while continuing to challenge the comfort zones of these boys until growth and change manifest in their lives. - Nampa

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