The well of hope

2010-07-24 00:00

DEPENDING on how you look at it, I’m either the worst person to be writing about Careline Crisis and Trauma Centre — or the best.

The reason is simple. On one level, I’ve just spent over a year at Careline, in my hometown of Hillcrest, dealing with a virulent alcohol addiction.

So this might lead to charges of extreme bias and embedded journalism — and, truth be told, I am indeed partisan towards the place, one of the reasons being that without Careline and its unstoppable founder and director, Joey du Plessis, I very probably wouldn’t be around to write this piece.

On another level, I am — and I really don’t want to invoke charges of ego-tripping here — probably a bit better qualified to tell you about Careline than a journalist who’s just popped in for an hour or two. After all, I’ve been here for well over 12 months, as I said, and my admiration for this unique organisation grows daily.

Careline was officially launched in 2000, when its facility in Assagay, just a couple of kilometres from the centre of Hillcrest, was opened, although it had been operating since long before.

Here, on a sprawling six-acre-plus spread that looks more like the home that it really is than any sort of institution, live up to 70 alcoholics and addicts at any given time. They come from vastly different backgrounds, ranging from privilege and private schools to prostitution and prison.

And while some have few job skills, others are highly qualified professionals, with age groups ranging from 18 to those in their fifties.

But virtually all have had their lives shattered by addiction.

For them, Careline is not just a serene safe haven, with dogs playing on the lawn and water features trickling in the background, but a place to rebuild, regroup and relaunch their lives.

Most residents, as they’re termed, are enrolled in an intensive three-month life skills course. Here they’re taught about addiction and what trials and traumas might have triggered it.

Under the tutelage of experienced instructors, residents also learn how to run relationships, how to deal with anger and much more, which is reinforced by weekly individual counselling sessions.

The programme is Christian-based as is the ethos of Careline, but it’s never force-fed and individual beliefs are respected — although church attendance at Hillcrest Christian Fellowship, which has been integrally linked to the organisation since its inception, is strongly encouraged.

After three months, some residents return home — if they still have homes. Some stay on to learn further skills development in Careline’s new, cutting-edge media centre and print shop or in its woodworking facility. Still others go out to work, and use the place as a safe base to return home to every night, remaining for up to two years.

After prolonged drug and alcohol abuse, it can take this long for the brain’s pathways to return to normal, and Careline — with its family-like atmosphere and regular aftercare sessions — is a veritable haven.

The place is currently transitioning from being a rehab to a halfway house, however, which means that residents are first required to go to a rehab. It’s also heavily involved in the local community, doing call-outs to any manner of crises, from suicides to armed robbery, while its help desk operates on a 24-hour-basis.

Then there’s the safe house for women in the midlands, various community outreaches — including a drug awareness campaign currently under way in local rural schools — and even a separate facility on a smallholding in nearby Peacevale, where many of those who’ve returned to the working world live in a bucolic setting.

Residents are expected to pay for their stay. While the amount is minimal, some still can’t afford even that, in which case a special dispensation is made — although one of the requirements for staying at Careline is a genuine desire to recover from addiction.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Careline is the dedication of its staff and the dynamism of Du Plessis, whose commitment never flags.



Careline Crisis and Trauma Centre can be contacted at 031 765 1587 or e-mail

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