A Crack Addict’s New Life as an Executive
Like most crack addicts, Anthony Richards has experienced his share of hopelessness and despair. Fourteen years ago, he believed his life had been destroyed. But thanks to an organization called Teen Challenge Jamaica, Richards was able to turn things around, and today he is the executive director of the organization that saved his life. It’s a position he has held since 2007, and it’s a job he loves.
Teen Challenge Jamaica is a nonprofit organization in operation since 1997 dedicated to helping people suffering from addiction to drugs and alcohol. It’s a faith-based Christian rehabilitation program in Ocho Rios that typically lasts 12 to 18 months. Although most of the residents are men, a small number of women have also been helped through the program.
Teen Challenge Jamaica aims to treat all aspects of the disease of addiction. The goal is to help people become mentally sound, emotionally balanced, spiritually alive and physically well. Residents learn discipline, vocational skills and coping tools. They face the past and look to the future.
As a graduate of Teen Challenge Jamaica, Richards feels a sense of passion and purpose as he watches others overcome the same type of life-controlling addiction from which he once suffered. His commitment is driven by his own gratitude to Teen Challenge Jamaica for making a difference in his life at a time when he was about to give up on himself and his future.
Richards is a true leader and is helping the organization move in the direction of self-sufficiency. Residents receiving treatment at the 40-bed facility participate in a variety of fundraising efforts. For example, teams of men are often seen at the Ocean Village shopping center selling snow cones – it has been the only group allowed to sell the icy treats there for the last few years. Richards and others from TCJ are extremely grateful to the community and the owners of the shopping center for their support.
Striving for Self-Sufficiency
Selling snow cones isn’t the only way the organization raises funds. The National Land Agency has given Teen Challenge Jamaica a long-term lease on 10 acres, where the group focuses on agriculture. TCJ has employed a farm manager to supervise work at the site, which includes two greenhouses. Residents of Teen Challenge Jamaica grow sweet peppers and tomatoes, and, with plans underway for two more greenhouse, will eventually add other crops. They are also raising chickens for eggs.
Working on the agricultural projects is therapeutic for the residents of Teen Challenge Jamaica. Richards marvels at TCJ’s success rate even before the farming program was launched. He says it isn’t good for the men to be cooped up inside all the time, and that those in treatment enjoy watching things grow and tending to animals.
Funds raised in this way help the organization reduce its reliance on donors, which include churches in the United States. Plans for the land also include a 200-bed facility, which would allow the organization to expand its reach.
Across the street from the teen challenge center once stood an old bar that had been closed for some time. Although being near a bar, even a closed bar, could be a trigger for some recovering addicts or alcoholics, Richards and others at TCJ inquired if they could rent the space. That old bar has now been transformed into a thrift store that sells the group’s produce, eggs and snow cones.
Richards was on his way to becoming just another statistic. Instead, with the help of Teen Challenge Jamaica, he has not only risen above his demons, he is able to inspire others. He is a powerful example that one can recover from crack and lead a productive, meaningful life.
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