Operation Santa Claus

Operation Santa Claus helps families of addicts through healing process

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 4:22am

It was not so long ago Lam Chi-ho could hardly hold a pair of scissors steady as a hairdresser.

Lam had been abusing drugs such as cough syrup and Ice since he was 15. Three years ago, he realised he was addicted. It was at Operation Dawn that Lam, now 38, found his saving grace.

He spent nine months with the centre on a remote Sai Kung island, where he studied the Bible and learned life skills under a strict regime with other recovering addicts. He emerged liberated from drugs and armed with a licence in driving pleasure crafts and certification from the Hong Kong Life Saving Society.

The person most relieved to see his recovery was his mother, Agnes. She recalled how the drugs had rendered her son unrecognisable. "When I was alone at home with him and his addiction would kick in, he would cease to be a human," she said. "I would be terrified."

Her fears are gone. Now, Lam is a Christian and works with the centre on the island.

Operation Dawn, which has been directly helping addicts, will turn its attention to helping their families heal with money raised from Operation Santa Claus, jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

General secretary Mamre Lilian Yeh said the funds would be used to hire a clinical psychologist to run workshops for 50 families over two years. "Other drug rehabilitation programmes often neglect the families, but they are deeply affected by the ordeal, too. And if our students' families don't recover, then the students could be dragged down again," Yeh said. "Lots of parents have told me they would rather see their child die so they don't have to feel ashamed any more. That's when you realise how heavy and complicated their emotions are."