CHANNELING FOCUS. Former drug dependents in Barangay Carmen in Cagayan de Oro City learn the basics of dragon boat sports at the Cagayan River Sunday (May 29, 2022). The Barangay's Community Based Rehabilitation Program launched the water sport as another form of after-care intervention for its graduates. (PNA photo by Nef Luczon)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Being the first implementer of the Community Based Rehabilitation Program (CBRP) in this city, Barangay Carmen has discovered innovative interventions to support former drug dependents.

Sunny Rae Cahayag, a barangay council member who oversees the CBRP, said the village's anti-drug program has helped over 200 drug dependents from all walks of life since its inception in 2017.

"In this program (CBRP), they (former drug dependents) had to undergo four months of rehabilitation (intervention), and an after-care program," Cahayag said.

As part of the after-care support, which entails continuous monitoring of the graduates after rehabilitation, Cahayag said the barangay organized activities, seminars, and livelihood training to keep the PWUDs (persons who use drugs) engaged.

However, the official noted that the introduction of dragon boat sport into the after-care program on May 29 has attracted more interest from several PWUDs who otherwise were indifferent to the community-based activities.

"This new sports program will help them (former drug dependents) sustain their recovery; it's one way that they will be embraced back into our community," Cahayag said.

Carmen's journey

Indeed, 42-year-old Carmen Arsenal sees the dragon boat sport as an opportunity for her and other PWUDs to explore their athletics side, and draw out innate talents that would have been stunted by the effects of drug abuse.

Arsenal who had been an addict for two decades, has been “clean” for five years, and hopes her newfound sport would help her move forward and to never look back.

"It has come to a point when we ask ourselves, what holds the future for us if we keep this cycle (of drug addiction), so I made the choice (towards rehabilitation)," she said.

Arsenal said she was the one who volunteered to be part of the CBRP in the barangay, with the help of local officials like Cahayag who encouraged her to stick with the program.

Her dedication to the program eventually landed her a post as the current CBRP manager.

Now, it's Arsenal's turn to convince other former drug dependents to continue with rehabilitation and group support, especially in engaging in sports like dragon boat.

"There is potential to this sport, and I believe we have the strength and the capacity to achieve this, especially to our younger fellows," she said.

Potential team

The dragon boat program was born from the partnership of the Barangay Carmen officials and the Dragon Boat Kagayan Inc. (DBK).

John Asuncion, president and founder of DBK, said teams coming from CBRP graduates might be formed out of the program.

Asuncion and his team have already started the groundwork for the reopening of the local dragon boat race in the city this coming August, with the easing of Covid-19 protocol restrictions.

"We always believe in second chances. These former drug dependents have the potential to become an inspiration to the community," Asuncion said. (PNA)