History

Since early 1982, Father Barnabe D’Souza, the current Executive Director of Shelter Don Bosco (SDB), has been keenly interested in working with street drug addicts. To pursue his work further, he underwent intensive training, attended several courses, workshops and interacted with several institutions for the treatment of these addicts. All his free time and holidays were devoted for this cause. In fact, at one point in time, he was asked to discontinue his seminary studies. However, he did not give up his zeal or pursuit of his passion.1993 was the year of a major learning experience. He organized camps at Churchgate, VT, Grant Road Masjid and other places in Mumbai for creating an awareness of the conditions of these children. He also completed his seminary studies. It was a diaconate experience and a model was developed which formed the basis of the evolution of the current 5-phase program of de-addiction.

In 1994-95, he was transferred to SDB. Here, he observed that 70 -80% of the children on the streets were drug addicts but did not have a response to this situation andas a result, they had to be left out of Shelter, Wadala.

In 1999, he was asked, by the then Superior, to make a study for a new institute in Goa. In the process of the study, a possibility arose in the form of the old teachers quarters, Khandala (Lonavla), which required the repairing of the building, deserted for 15 years, and starting a program for street drug addicts. Hence, September, 1999, saw the inauguration of SDB Therapeutic Community Centre in Khandala.

In the years to come, the demand from the streets grew very high with over 90- 100 children participating in each detoxification camp. The space was limited and he had to ask for more space. Finally a piece of land, behind the Don Bosco High School, Lonavla was offered to him for his work. This was the birth of Maria Ashiana which was blessed on 8th December, 2004 and, finally, inaugurated on 27th February, 2005, in collaboration with the Asha Foundation, Switzerland.

THE 5- PHASE PROGRAM :
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Initially, the rehabilitation program at Khandala, catered to the children through the medium of camps spread over 3 months. Since Dec.2004, however, the program has been altered and the camp system has been replaced by a yearly rotation. During this period, the children are first prepared on the streets and encouraged to think about giving up drugs, then they undergo medical detoxification at the Shraddha Hospital at Lonavala, followed by a 2-3 month stay at Maria Ashiana. Subsequently, the children are sent for vocational training.Thus, the current program at Maria Ashiana comprises of the following five phases:

Phase 1- Street contact and preparation- duration for one whole year at Mumbai and Pune
Phase 2– Medical detoxification – for a whole year at Shraddha Hospital, Old Khandala (Before and                            after medical treatment)
Phase 3- Therapeutic Living – for a whole year at Maria Ashiana, Tungarli
Phase 4- Training – for one year at Lonavala, Pune, Betul, Mumbai etc.
Phase 5- Home placement/ Repatriation – round the year at Maria Ashiana, Lonavala.

PHASE 1 : – Street contact and preparation- Mumbai and Pune
Outreach:
The geographical scope of outreach extends to include the Lonavala-Pune belt, thus covering more children especially at the railway stations, the primary points of entry. This also enables better networking with the police there. The children are told about the dangers of drugs and encouraged to give up their addictions. Those who are interested are asked to attend Shelter’s monthly Mela, where they are given an orientation to Shelter’s diverse programs including the de-addiction program.

Drop-in Centre:
The drop in centre was started on 9th of June 2005 at the Shelter Don Bosco Drop in Centre and Training Centre (Johnson’s Bungalow) at Old Khandala. The drop-in centre is the first reference point to Shelter’s Don Bosco’s Drug Rehabilitation program and acts as an entry point to the other program phases.

On an average 20-25 children from Lonavala station drop in daily at the centre and avail the various facilities offered by the drop in centre like education, entertainment, recreation, medical aid and various other awareness sessions etc. The centre offers a short respite for these children living on the street wherein they can relax, free their minds, clean themselves etc.

PHASE 2 : – Medical Detoxification – Shraddha Hospital, Old Khandala
Detoxification:

  •  Earlier, the detoxification program was carried out at Mumbai’s G.T. and Sion
    hospitals, but now it is being done at Lonavala’s Shraddha Hospital. Here a
    complete medical check-up is carried out and counseling is provided.
  • Once this process is completed, the children are then shifted to Old Khandala for a
    period of one to one-and-a-half months, mentally preparing them for entry into the
    next phase at the Therapeutic Centre at Maria Ashiana. During this time, the children are taught to be independent and give serious thought to their future.

Activities:
1. Individual counseling is done by the social workers before and after the detoxification program.
2. Staff organizes and plans games for the boys in order to recreate and entertain them.
3. Attempts are made to keep the boys actively engaged in work – Occupational therapy.
4. Boys are oriented and prepared for the third phase.
5. Medical assistance and aid is given and regular medical checkups are provided.

PHASE 3 : – Therapeutic Center – Maria Ashiana
Therapeutic Center:
At Maria Ashiana, the children are accommodated for a period of 2-3 months, during which time they are involved in activities such as skill training, awareness sessions, indoor and outdoor games, entertainment programs, personality development etc. All this helps them to reflect on their lives, enhance their potential, increases communication and group bonding etc.

The boys also undergo training in various areas and skilled trainers are employed to impart training in areas such as:
1. Carpentry
2. Plumbing
3. Electrician
4. Welding

The skill training imparted helps the boys in deciding the professions and trades they would like to take on in the next phase. The masonry training has helped the boys build and paint the compound wall. The boys also take care of the maintenance of the grounds and gardens.

Activities:
1. Awareness program on myths and superstitions
2. Awareness program on Snakes and their benefit to environment
3. Awareness program on Personal Hygiene and health precaution during monsoons
4. Boys Sent for training
5. Drawing Competition by Rotary Club
6. Various competitions( Drawing, Music, sport)
7. Sports day ( Don Bosco School)

PHASE 4 : – Training – Pune, Betul, Mumbai etc.
Training:
At Maria Ashiana the boys get trained in different vocational areas such as Electrician , Plumbing, Carpentry, Welding . Here at the centre the aptitudes and skill sets of each child are ascertained and vocational guidance and counseling is undertaken, to help the children find the vocations or jobs they would like to get into.

Once the boys select the training options offered to them they are sent to institutions like Ashadeep, Don Bosco, Borivili, Don Bosco, Betul, Don Bosco, Chinchwad (Pune) and Shelter Don Bosco, Wadala where their technical skills are enhanced and are assisted in taking on a trade or profession. Follow-up is done via telephone.

The Training is imparted in areas such as:

  • Welding
  • Carpentry
  • 2-wheeler mechanics, 4 wheeler mechanics
  • A.C. maintenance

Phase 5- Home placement/ Repatriation- whole year, Maria Ashiana, Lonavala
Home Placement:
The last phase of the program – Phase 5 is where the boys are encouraged and helped to reintegrate back in to society. They are assisted in setting up a home wherein some 4 boys share accommodation (in 1 room) and live together or are repatriated home since the best place for a child is his home. Our boys have been repatriated to Pune, Gujarat, Sholapur, Howrah, Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Kolkata.