Teen Challenge is the brainchild of American Rev. David Ray Wilkerson, an Evangelist who believed in the use of ministry to reach out to drug abusers and gang members
Teen Challenge is the brainchild of American Rev. David Ray Wilkerson, an Evangelist who believed in the use of ministry to reach out to drug abusers and gang members
Teen Challenge is the brainchild of American Rev. David Ray Wilkerson, an Evangelist who believed in the use of ministry to reach out to drug abusers and gang members

There is something unique about the two rehabilitation centres run by Teen Challenge Uganda: Kigoowa in Ntinda, Kampala and the other centre in Gulu use spiritual intervention to treat individuals with addiction problems.

Teen Challenge, which has been operating in Uganda for five years now, also looks out for particular needy individuals in different communities or neighborhoods in Uganda. Of course there are a number of organizations that carry out almost similar activities like Teen Challenge such as Serenity Center or even the more well-known Butabika Hospital, but the difference lies in the fact that Teen Challenge does not believe in the administration of drugs or medication to support the recuperation of individuals with illnesses or addictions, instead they believe in the use of spirituality, particularly Christianity, in the treatment of individuals.

Teen Challenge is the brainchild of American Rev. David Ray Wilkerson, an Evangelist who believed in the use of ministry to reach out to drug abusers and gang members, leading to the formation of a unique bible-based recovery program for addicts and delinquents.

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Wilkerson, who passed on 1n 2011 aged 80, was the founder of the ‘non-denominational’ Times Square Church in New York and was also known for his bestselling book ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’.

Mr. Ivan Mpiira, the Men’s Director at Teen Challenge Uganda is responsible for the welfare of all male in-patients at the rehabilitation center and sheds a little more light on the process of recovery of individuals who are in need of rehabilitation. He emphasises the need for the patient to accept that they have a problem and are in need of help or assistance; it is at this point that the rehabilitation process begins, with those taken on paying a minimum fee of shs350, 000 a month for the rehabilitation period that runs for one year.

According to Mr Mpiira, a number of activities are involved in the rehabilitation process among them equipping the patients with life skills like computer use, tailoring and how to make liquid soap.

“These activities help to keep them busy; they help re-develop their mind of thinking…alternative to being idle which will without a doubt make the patient relapse since these drugs were a pastime before they became addicts,” explains Mr Mpiira.

Mr Mpiira, himself no stranger to addiction says: “I too reached a point in my life where I was devastated, heartbroken, frustrated this led me to addiction…I was labeled worthless, this was because of my actions; however when I came to Teen Challenge they changed my life because they saw my value and showed me love.”

Asked why at Teen Challenge the use of medication is not encouraged, he said Christianity and spirituality allow and individuals to think differently and thus act accordingly.

At Teen Challenge, he said, they believe that Christian-oriented transformation begins with rejuvenation of the mind, with love as the pivot aspect. “A mistake does not eliminate potential but just merely covers it. We focus on showing these patients their true value and thus giving them self-worth through love” says Mr Mpiira.

In fact Teen Challenge also carries out ‘aftercare’, where the organization stays in touch with the transformed patient since they believe that they are family. And in some instances the organization also retains some individuals like Mr Mpiira, in the hope that they can impact others facing addiction problems. “Here we aim at reforming a person as well as creating a generation that will impact others” he says.

Ben Paul Mugyereza, a parent of one of the patients at Teen Challenge says his son has started changing his way of thinking and has begun managing his life.

“He’s started seeing a life of thinking; he is now looking at the future and wants to also impact someone’s life and help someone overcome a problem,” Mr Mungyereza says of his son Rodney Aijuka.

And Aijuka is positive, admitting that since he joined Teen Challenge in February his life has changed.

“I used to be a drunk and also got involved in drugs, but ever since I came to this place my life has changed; I can say now I have experienced real life, unlike before where I was intoxicated and my mind elsewhere,” says Aijuka, who completes his rehabilitation course next year in February and plans to join Ministry right after.

Teen Challenge also recently started up a similar centre for women in Kulambiro, Ntinda of Nakawa Division that has been running for one year.

Teen Challenge, an organization that also opens its doors for the destitute after assessing their moral aptitude, depends on donations from several organizations, selling clothes and the fees paid by the in-patients.

Meanwhile, the organization is currently organizing a charity walk in Gulu to bring attention to their activities in northern Uganda and also to raise funds to open up another home in the area.

There will also be a fundraising dinner dubbed ‘Dine For Gulu” on October 24, with a ticket selling at shs100, 000, and the proceeds channeled into building a men’s home in Gulu. For more information about Teen Challenge and what they are all about you can visit their website at teenchallenge-uganda.org.