One mother’s heartfelt story about watching her child battle drug addiction was the inspiration behind a new initiative to fight drug abuse and other social ills in Bo-Kaap.
The project, which is already making waves in the area, is simply called The Bo-Kaap Initiative. It got off the ground in February and it involves the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, The Neighbourhood Watch, SKW Rugby, Women of Substance and various social clubs.
There have been several meetings this month involving the police and medical professionals helping with counsellling and advice.
The campaign started after a mother came forward to tell her story about her son’s battle with drug addiction.
“My son was 15 when he first started using heroin. Healing comes when you open up,” she said, explaining why she came forward.
She is also part of a support group for mothers in the area who face a similar ordeal.
“I don’t know about other communities, but there is a stigma in the Bo-Kaap.”
She is glad the community is now talking about the issue.
“I would welcome them (to the support groups). I would tell them that they are not alone because I am going through the same things. I would also tell them that they are brave to address these problems. Prevention is better than a cure.”
She said substance abuse was rising noticeably, especially among high school pupils.
The initiative’s organisers said they decided to act after becoming increasingly concerned about the spread of substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs like tik and heroin, in the area.
They say the project is built on the “by the Bo-Kaap for the Bo-Kaap” philosophy, and they want to draw in the broader community, tackling social problems through education programmes and by getting people to talk about serious issues in their midst.
Mogamat Eneeck Salie, of the SKW Rugby Club, said sport could do a lot to protect children from negative influences.
“The club is trying to get the kids involved by getting them off the streets,” he said, adding, though, that this was hard work in an area with few sports facilities.
Yusuf Safudien, of the Bo-Kaap Neighbourhood Watch, said it was encouraging to see how many community groups were already involved.
“What astounded me was the number of parents who came forward to tell us how they had been affected. We realised there was a problem with substance abuse in the Bo-Kaap,” said Mr Safudien.
“It is heart-warming to see some of the parents come forward and it bought us closer as a community. This is a good starting point.”
Toufiek Samaai, another community member involved in the project and Bo-Kaap Civic and the Ratepayers’ Association, said: “We are strong enough as a community to handle this. We work closely with the police and the City of Cape Town.”
Ward Councillor Dave Bryant confirmed that he had already met with some members of the initiative. “I think this is a fantastic initiative. We have seen how strong the Bo-Kaap community is when they come together as a group. I have already put the neighbourhood watch in contact with the City’s social workers.
“Substance abuse is something that all communities deal with. It is important for communities to protect their children from the cycle of drugs.”
He said law enforcement had made some significant drug-related arrests in Long Street during the weekend.
“We are trying to root out the dealers and we know who they are,” he said.
Dr Faadiel Williams, who is based at Lentegeur Hospital but spoke to the Atlantic Sun in his personal capacity, said substance abuse was a massive problem in the country and the Western Cape. “Substance abuse affects individuals, families and societies at large, it affects all of us. We see how substance abuse can affect the heart, chest and many other organs. We also see the patients suffering from depression and anxiety,” said Mr Williams.
He said while it would be ideal to see more public facilities near the city-centre that dealt with substance abuse, it was encouraging to see local government responding to the issues. Mr Williams said most of his family still lived in Bo-Kaap and he visited the area regularly.
“As far as I understand, substance abuse has increased significantly in the area. It has always been there, but now we see things like tik and heroin. There are mothers who are struggling. It can be a nightmare.”
He said it was crucial that communities got involved in projects such as this. “As health care providers this is something that we encourage. We need the community to get involved.”