Teen Challenge Samoa dealing with root issues

By Aruna Lolani ,

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SMILE FOR THE CAMERA: Teen Challenge Samoa Director Eric Poe with the counselors.

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA: Teen Challenge Samoa Director Eric Poe with the counselors.

A programme recently launched to help at risk young people is making great strides in making a difference.

Since its launch at the Apia Harvest Centre Church, Teen Challenge has counseled a number of young people referred to the programme by the Ministry of Justice, Courts and Administration. 

In six weeks, Director Eric Poe said close to 30 cases have been referred to their care so far.

 “So M.J.C.A. refers most of the kids to us especially the youth generation and the service that we’re performing for them are counseling and rehabilitation programmes,” Mr. Poe said.

“For us, we base our procedures on the cases given by M.J.C.A. and they are very specific with their cases.

“You know for example, they might say this person needs anger management so for us, it’s anger and personal right, so we do this programme for six weeks to help out these kids.

“We also do additional activities that enable us to identify the cause of their problems or issues such as incest, thieving, as well as cases where inappropriate manners were shown towards women by the male race. 

“So we have to dig deep when it comes to the roots or the causes.”

There are many causes.

 “Some cases we’ve learned were caused by pornography; where they have become addicted to those things for the last two years so it had built their mindset with such foolishness and other things like that, and then they started acting up. So we have to deal with the root, even with those that are responsible for physical abuse.”

Mr. Poe said one of the most common sources of hurt they have found begin from within families.

 “You know it’s either between them and their parents or anyone else in the family for that matter.

“It causes them to be hurt; and you know once something happens between family members, it breaks you. So we have to deal with a lot of those students that are involved with family problems because what caused them to argue or fight didn’t just happen. It has to start from somewhere and it keeps on building. So our job is to step out and reach out to help.”

Mr. Poe added that the youngest member in the group is a thirteen year old and this was one of the students that they needed to contribute a lot of their efforts into making sure he’s taken care of.

“You know for him, he doesn’t have a father because he left when he was still little and his mother also has special needs.

“We felt the need to step out and help, even reaching out to him because his home environment is tremendously broken. We had to help him out in providing a home for him, taking him to the hospital using money from our own pockets. 

 “It’s easy to deal with students whose issues are based on their characters but if their homes are not in place, it’s so difficult. 

“So we have to reach out when it comes to cases like these and we have two cases like that right now and there’s a lot of neglect to these children because of broken homes.

GOING TO WORK: Participants at the Teen Challenge program (Photo: Eric Poe)
GOING TO WORK: Participants at the Teen Challenge program (Photo: Eric Poe)

“We’re also planning to bring in community problems, to bring in their families and try to deal with them.

“As a faith base programme, it means we use the bible as a rehabilitation tool.

“So some days, when we use the bible in class, we do lessons and then we do the practical side, they also take assignments at home. We use it like that, we take a scripture and we talk about it.

“The good thing about using the Bible and our culture is because those are the two main pillars of the foundations of their lives. 

“If you try and talk to them about life’s skills, they get lost because they don’t understand.

“We talk to them about the Bible and then apply it to reality because they grew up hearing about the Bible. It’s easy and that’s why we believe our method works.

“And then after our teaching, we take them one on one consultation everyday or everytime they come in because there are personal things that are happening to them that they need to let it out so they need us to help them out. 

“Most of them, they come out with tears, feeling emotional right after their one on one sessions especially on the first and second week, when they just started on this programme. 

Eric said Teen Challenge Samoa are trying their best to help shape their students into people they should become. 

“The progress of change; well I’ll be lying if I say there’s a bit of change, it shouldn’t be something that comes from us, it comes from the kids themselves.

“Teen Challenge globally has identified that their (students) success percent is 86% and it has been proved in America where they have conducted surveys. 

“So we do our work with certainty and assurance that it will work and we see a change; we had a case before where our first student now has a job and for us, that means this programme has a great impact on these people.

“From the beginning of this programme, I was the only one that stepped in for this programme, just me and the office and we walked in knowing that we will get help and so far, we have 9 counselors at the moment; they are very good counselors, they are mature in the work.

“We don’t just do the programme, you know this is the first base programme, it’s different from the circular programme and the faith base programme, we step up.

“But we don’t do just the programmes for the sake of numbers and records; you step out of the scene and lead.”

“Our division basically deals with youth because that’s what M.J.C.A. are referring to us but we are trying to develop in other areas that involves adults, couples even prostitutions and homosexuals, but we are slowly getting to order.”

Teen Challenge Samoa is under the covering of Reverend Faafetai Fata Meafou and the Apia Harvest Centre Church in Togafuafua.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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