Recovering addicts build plaza and self-esteem

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am

About 200 recovering drug addicts have built a square for a giant Buddha statue, hoping to heal their souls.

The white jade Buddha statue, 2.7 metres high and weighing seven tonnes, is believed to be the largest such sitting Buddha statue in the city. It is in 1,200-square-metre Wisdom Square at a rehabilitation centre on Shek Kwu Chau. The square has a fountain and benches and is surrounded by greenery.

'The whole square was built by rehabilitating drug addicts here. They spent about two years on the project,' said Alfred Mak Wai-keung, a superintendent of the Society for the Aid and Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers, which runs a treatment centre for male drug addicts.

'We are not a religious group, but we think religious beliefs may help drug addicts get rid of addiction.

'When building the square, drug abusers could interact with people from the outside and that could help improve their interpersonal skills and promote social integration. They have also realised that they are not discriminated against as long as they don't belittle themselves.'

All the staircases, railings, benches and the floor were made by the recovering addicts, which Mr Mak said 'proved that they are not useless and can contribute to the community'.

Chung Wai-man, 31, a recovering addict and peer counsellor at the centre, said: 'It was exhausting working in the sun but it was worthwhile.'

Mr Chung started to get hooked on drugs at age 15 and had been sent to the Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre for compulsory drug rehabilitation six times over the years.

But it was not until he voluntarily sought help from the Shek Kwu Chau Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre in 2005 that he had a turnaround in his life.

Mr Chung learned welding at the centre and helped build the plaza by welding all the pipes and metal objects. 'It's given me great satisfaction.'

The centre's medical superintendent, Tan Kar-whee, who bought and shipped the statue from Myanmar to the city about two years ago, said: 'Drug addicts can be healed physically in a short period of time, but it takes much longer for them to recover psychologically.

'I hope this square will provide them with another place to rest and chat. It would be great if some monks can come here and talk with them so that they are determined not to take drugs again,' said the Buddhist.

Peter Pi Wing-lee, executive director of the society, urged the government to build a training camp on the island for anti-drug education for students and move the relics of the Tiger Balm Garden to Shek Kwu Chau for an anti-drug museum.

Weight of wisdom

The 2.7-metre high white jade Buddha statue's weight in tonnes: 7