Expand a Rehabilitation Center for Drug Addicts in Russia
Project Code: 427-00-19
Right from its beginnings, ACN’s charitable work has been also a work of reconciliation. For our founder, Father Werenfried, it was a heartfelt concern and "his last and greatest joy," as he said after the collapse of communism, to translate into practical deeds the "ecumenism of solidarity" and to extend a helping hand to the Russian Orthodox Church as well as the Catholic Church. One such project that has been particularly blessed is the rehabilitation center for drug addicts in Sapernoe, some 65 miles from Saint Petersburg, in an area of almost untouched natural beauty not far from the Finnish Karelian border.
It all began with a few isolated cases. Again and again young people were coming to Father Sergij Belkov, asking him to hear their confessions. Before he became a priest he was an investigator on the murder commission. The problem of drugs was nothing new to him. But as a priest, he was also increasingly aware that this was not, first and foremost, a matter of a medical or sociological problem, but rather a sickness of the soul.
Most people realize very quickly that the path of drugs is a false one. One person described himself as "like living in the grave" while another said he felt "no longer human." They were both describing one and the same phenomenon. The only way out of the vicious spiral of drug addiction begins with this recognition, and with the will to change and convert. The first step on the path is sacramental Confession. The most important step towards healing is the reception of the Sacraments.
Father Sergij takes these young men in after they have undergone a physical withdrawal program, which mostly takes place in one of the state clinics in Saint Petersburg. He welcomes them like the father welcoming the prodigal son. The other members of his community support him solidly in his work.
One of these helpers, a woman, describes how, again and again, she is astonished at the transformation that takes place in these young men, most of whom are aged between 18 and 28. "In the first few days, they are always aggressive and surly, and scarcely even look at you. But very quickly there is a real "transformation" that begins from within, with God's help and thanks to the love and family warmth that radiate out from Father Sergij, his wife and all the other helpers and members of the center."
Structurally, the center is formed like a large and healthy natural family. The "older" recovering addicts are like the older brothers and sisters, who already understand the discipline in the family and pass it on to the “younger” ones. A new member is accepted into the family only once a month, in order not to endanger the delicate balance within it. After their time here the young men can return, physically and psychologically strengthened, to their own families and even establish families of their own.
Sapjornoje was the first ever Orthodox center of its kind in Russia. Its success rate of around 75% of addicts permanently healed is testimony to the rightness of Father Sergij and his approach, and as a result it has been recognized and imitated throughout the country, and beyond its borders.
Life in the center is one of prayer and work, as well as of obedience and observance of the ecclesiastical fast days; it is no accident that it is very closely based on the conventual life. Right from the start, each person has his own particular duties. Initially the members work together with a master, but then do so increasingly independently. There is agricultural work (cattle, pig, and poultry rearing, and a vegetable garden) and building work also. There is an opportunity to learn various trades, such as learning to be a carpenter, joiner, roofer or bricklayer. Former addicts are always ready to step in and help with the training and as reliable and credible helpers. In this mood of work and prayer the recovering addicts are able to rediscover their human dignity.
Father Sergij now wants to extend the opportunities by adding on a host baking and candlemaking workshop. ACN has agreed to help with a contribution of $8,900. Will you give to expand this rehabilitation center for drug addicts in Russia? We are sure Father Sergij will remember you in his grateful prayers!
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