Helping young people beat addiction

Rehabilitation center Karira Githire during the interview at I M office. ON 17/11/14 [PHOTO: JENIPHER WACHIE/STANDARD]

Nairobi, Kenya: After watching alcohol ruin his cousin’s life a few years ago, Karira Githire decided to dedicate his life to helping young people and those whose lives have been ravaged by addiction by establishing a rehabilitation centre.

“The dream of setting up a rehab was birthed after I watched my cousin struggle with addiction for many years, but recovered after rehabilitation,” says Karira, 27.

“My mother who lives abroad arranged for his rehab and when he came back a changed man, it really impressed me and kept playing in my mind. There before me was a business idea - and a chance to help people rediscover themselves.”

So Karira convinced his mother to lend him some money with which he rented a four bedroom house on Ngong Road with a capacity to hold 12 people at a time. He named it New Horizons International Centre. That was two years ago.

“I started the centre with two beds. A man from the centre where my cousin went for rehab guided me on how to go about it and get young addicts because I was still green in the sector,” Karira, a philosophy graduate from the University of Nairobi, recalls. “Unfortunately, this help came with a cost; the man misappropriated the institution’s funds, and we had to resolve the case in a police station.”

He closed the rehab centre after a year. In that year, he had already helped 12 young people deal with addiction. This gave him the determination to succeed. The closure gave him time to re-strategise. The false start was not going to make him give up on his passion.

He borrowed money from some friends and he re-opened the centre. He targeted addicts from humble backgrounds and slums.

“For a whole month I had only two clients. Then I met a man who was doing a mentorship programme with street families,” he recalls. “The programme was incorporated into the centre so that alongside the recovery process, the addicts would be taught life skills and values.”

But even after patients started streaming in, the centre still had a lot of challenges because buying daily items such as food and soap was a big challenge.

“Most of the patients that were from the streets,” Karari points out. “Their sponsors were either churches or well-wishers who would chip in as low as Sh5,000 per month. Sometimes there was no food and other supplies like tissue paper and I remember there are times I would buy a half kilo of rice and boil it, often at the expense of doing my personal shopping.”

monthly stipend

The monthly stipend, only from patients with able parents or sponsors, was meant to cater for food, counselling and a doctor on call in case of a medical emergency. Successful treatment for an alcoholic takes a minimum of three months while a hard drug addict will need at least half a year.

“When I was starting this institution I was money minded and I would calculate the potential profits, but after working with the addicts, and because of the financial hardship, I experienced an attitude transformation,” Karira recalls. “That I was no longer here for the money but to lift fellow youths from the cesspit of addiction. The success of a rehab centre is measured by the number of people it has successfully lifted from addiction. And that’s my mission in life”.

To date, the institution has successfully rehabilitated more than 10 addicts who are now mentors and motivators of those suffering from substance abuse. The inability to take in more people in need of help due to the centre’s inability to absorb more than ten patients at a time disturbs Karira emotionally.

“I would like to partner with people with big hearts willing to help addicted young people from the slums get a second chance in life.”

Karira’s vision is to make New Horizon International Centre an oasis of hope for addicts from poor backgrounds, especially from the slums around Nairobi.

“Seeing young people emancipate themselves from the bondage of addiction to become productive members of society is my ultimate dream. In future, I would like to invite beneficiaries of the institution to give testimonies of their journeys to other patients.”