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Awareness helps beat addictions

Ben Sandy of the Penticton office of the Wildfire Management branch of the B.C. Forest Service helps Amanda Delane-Thomas of Portage Keremeos, The Crossing youth treatment centre with starting a chainsaw during the practical portion of the S-100 Basic Fire Suppression course held at the facility.  - Mark
Ben Sandy of the Penticton office of the Wildfire Management branch of the B.C. Forest Service helps Amanda Delane-Thomas of Portage Keremeos, The Crossing youth treatment centre with starting a chainsaw during the practical portion of the S-100 Basic Fire Suppression course held at the facility.
— image credit: Mark

Self-empowerment through accomplishment is a critical component of success for youth battling addiction.

Just how well the technique works was evident on the faces of the 13 young people at the Portage Keremeos at The Crossing facility recently as they did the practical portion of the S-100 Basic Fire Suppression and Safety certification course.

Members of the Penticton-based Wildfire Management Branch of the B.C. Forest Service spent three days teaching the program which has become an annual opportunity for Portage clients.

“It gives something to set our minds to rather than sitting around thinking about all the bad things that have happened to us in our lives,” said Oliver’s Zachary Vizeau, 18, who is now considering firefighting as a job. “It is quite interesting to have the time to interact with these adults and finding out how these people have found a path to careers that they enjoy so much.

“ A lot of youth in addiction, we don’t have as much drive to find a career that we’re really interested in. This helps us invest in something really good in our lives.”

A non-profit organization, Portage operates a voluntary residential rehabilitation treatment centre for 14- to 18-year-olds. It is located on a 58-acre rural setting just west of Keremeos.

“It really does build confidence because when we are able to do something right and we get acknowledged for the progress that we are making it really helps us to realize our potential in life,” added Vizeau who has a month left in his program. “Firefighters have competencies much like our own at Portage, and seeing this helps us realize that those competencies do apply to daily life on the outside and there are opportunities for us.”

Portage director Diane Power-Jeans found it difficult to put into words the dramatic changes she sees almost daily in the young residents as they grow.

“A lot people in addiction, their self worth is so low, lower than a snake’s belly, their self esteem has bottomed out,” said Power-Jeans. “But by taking these programs they start to believe, ‘I am worth recovery and I can do this,’ you see them blossom.

“The common thread is joy and hope, the joy of life and hope for the future that I don’t think most of them had when they came in here.”

Steve Cleminson of Portage who organizes the various programs and outings agreed: “What this does is just reaffirms the stuff we’ve been saying to them here but it’s not just us saying it here but seeing that’s what people out in the real world are doing.

“It’s actually very scary for them at first but they begin putting in some of those competencies that they are learning here and it’s, ‘Oh, team work really does matter, asking for help really does matter.’ Those are the biggest changes we see.”

Although she has only been at Portage for several months, Amanda Delane-Thomas of Kelowna, who will soon be 16, has already noticed a big difference in herself.

“Being here and staying active definitely helps me to learn better and attain the positive things I need to have in my life,” said Amanda, who described Portage as a second home. “It’s something that seems so simple but it’s something that if you practice, it helps you be a really better person.”

Despite having had a relapse after leaving another centre, she is confident this time will be successful because of what she will have accomplished during her stay.

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