Zou Zou came to Thailand in 2008 at the age of 25. He arrived in Thailand after spending some years working in a restaurant in Malaysia as an undocumented migrant worker. Last year, his brother and sister joined him in Thailand, while his parents and youngest brother live in Karen State in Burma (Myanmar).
Zou Zou developed an addiction to tobacco and marijuana at the age of 16. While working in Malaysia he developed further addiction to stronger drugs know as ICE (similar to methamphetamine) and alcohol. The life of a migrant worker is a hard one- separated from family, often discriminated against and persecuted, and with easy access to alcohol and drugs.
His life continued to spiral downwards when he arrived at the Mae La Refugee Camp in 2008. He was constantly getting into fights and as a result was constantly in detention. Zou Zou’s younger sister kept their mother informed of Zou Zou’s troubles. Their mother encouraged him to seek help.
Fortunately for Zou Zou, the Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education (DARE) program operates six treatment centres for recovering addicts like him. They offer 90-day detoxification programs which utilize a blend of indigenous and Western addiction recovery techniques.
PWRDF supports DARE financially, and also helped to build a relationship between DARE and the Nishnabe Aski Nation (NAN) of the First Nations in Canada. In 2007, PWRDF facilitated an exchange visit between NAN and DARE, which allowed addiction recovery workers from each group to share their expertise. This has led to DARE including healing circles to their recovery program.
Zou Zou got himself into the program and recovered completely in October 2009. Since finishing the program, he has decided to become an addiction worker himself and has completed 3 months of the 6 month long training. He says, `I am amazed to see how much respect I get now from my friends, peers, teachers and even elders. I feel good and healthy. I have become a role model for many troubled people particularly young people.’
When asked how he would like to shape his future, he says,`I want to apply for the resettlement program [to become a resettled refugee in a country like Canada] in the long run. But until I qualify to apply, I wanna go on working as an addiction worker and helping others to recover.’
Zou Zou has discovered that the pride and value of his work lie in changing someone’s life from the destruction of addiction to hope and happiness.