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Passion to never give up

Matilda Simmons
Saturday, April 14, 2018

THE passion to never give up easily on people is what probably defines social worker Epironi Toloi.

The director for youth services at the Salvation Army battles daily with the problems and issues that often come to his doorsteps in the form of young addicts. From hard drugs, alcohol addiction, depression and family problems, the 42-year-old and his wife Sera have stood by these young people who often come as referrals from mental institutions such as St Giles Psychiatric Hospital or even from the police.

"It starts with just drinking in the villages then sniffing glue then to marijuana, "said Epironi

"Marijuana was one of the top cases we dealt with. We also had cases of hard drugs and alcohol.

"It's a must in the day that they have to have it, otherwise there will be disruptions in the house. They live with it from the ages of 11-13 and by the time they reach their late 20s it's hard to leave it."

Seeing how the young adults struggled tugged at the heart of Epironi because he was once there himself.

"Hard drugs can destroy a person. We had a client who lost his job, and his family left him because they feared his erratic behaviour.

"It's always sad when you see such a wasted life but I don't give up that easily on them. I was one of the worst addicts myself and it was through prayer and counselling that I got out of it.

"It's tough and it doesn't help when you are stigmatised. Alcohol and drug addiction are a disease and people can be helped."

The couple introduced a program in 2016 called the Alcohol and Substance Addiction Services. The program helps addicts through a six-eight weeks recovery program. So far, they're seeing a small difference even if there were a lot of obstacles along the way.

"We're seeing a difference in some of our clients who have managed to come out of their addiction and it's always a blessing when we see it.

"I am thankful that we have a supporting network with the Fiji Police (Force), Fiji Corrections Service, St Giles and the National Substance Abuse Advisory Council, a statutory body under the Ministry of Education who have always stood by us. We work closely together in monitoring the rise in drug users and alcohol addictions in the country. It's a challenge but a work that must be addressed."

The couple is based at the Salvation Army office in Raiwai and wanting help can always walk in through their door with their confidentiality assured.

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