Retired teacher helps addicts kick the habit in China

Retired teacher helps addicts kick the habit in China
Huang Yongfu, founder of the Association of Sunshine Mothers
PHOTO: China Daily/ANN

Where there is love, nothing is impossible, according to a 71-year-old retired teacher who has helped more than 200 addicts quit drugs, guiding them out of their dependence through the care she provides in the Guizhou provincial capital.

"I never treat the drug addicts as addicts, or criminal suspects, when I contact and talk to them," Huang Yongfu said. "On the contrary, I treat them as my own children who need my help and mother's love."

After her retirement, Huang established a volunteer association, the Association of Sunshine Mothers, and began helping addicts in local communities in Guiyang's Huaxi district.

"I decided to give a helping hand to the drug addicts, as I do not have the heart to see their suffering," Huang said.

Called Lao Ma, or old mother, she wins the trust of the drug addicts and their parents through frequent visits, encouraging them with her sincerity. But in the beginning, "I could not be understood by the drug addicts, and many of them used to steer clear of me", she said.

Huang's volunteer association now has expanded to more than 600 people.

"I have only one goal, that is I want to help them," Huang said. "I seek neither prestige nor riches to help the drug addicts."

Huang said she successfully persuaded one man's parents to approve his marriage to another addict in 2012. The man's mother had opposed the marriage, fearing she would not have a healthy grandchild.

After consulting doctors and other medical experts, Huang told the man's parents that drug addicts could give birth to healthy children if they stop taking drugs and stick to their medical treatment. The man's mother later became a Sunshine Mothers volunteer after she had a healthy grandchild.

Huang invites people who have overcome addiction to join her association and tell their own stories in an effort to help other addicts.

"Only when we really know the sufferings of the drug addicts can we really help and persuade them to give up their addictions," Huang said.

In the previous years, Huang said she shouted at drug addicts, asking "Why do you take drugs?" and telling them, "You will not die if you do not take drugs."

"But I really did not know how to answer when they said, You really do not understand the suffering of a drug addict with no drugs," Huang said.

Police and other law enforcement personnel have questioned Huang, suggesting she is too lenient on drug addicts. She has a clear answer for them.

"Drug addicts are ordinary residents in the communities, and they are also the victims of drugs when they do not break laws and regulations," she said.

Because of her work, Huang's association has been selected as a model group in narcotics control by the China National Narcotics Control Commission.

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