Adventist church in Southeast Asia expands training for substance abuse prevention program

Global drug and tobacco usage has long been a focus of groups such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Recent statistics such as those from the 2015 UNODC World Drug Report raise new concerns due to increasing usage in Southeast Asia, especially among those more marginalized in society such as women and youth. In response, the Adventist church in the Southern Asia-Pacific region (SSD) offered a training event for youth substance abuse prevention on September 8-12, 2016 at the Asia-Pacific International University in Ban Muak Lek, Thailand.

Deemed a Youth Alive core group meeting, 56 participants from 10 of SSD’s 14 countries learned the program basics and how to offer training in their areas. Lhalaine Alfanoso, SSD Health Ministries director, explains “This is a General Conference program that is a coordination of Health, Youth, and Education [departments]. Basically, the Youth Alive program is a substance abuse prevention program for youth with the Health department being the one preparing modules & programs. During our planning, we wanted to also focus on different issues Adventist youth, our target group, face in Southeast Asia.”

Youth Alive has a decade-long history in the Philippines. Proponents list benefits such as leadership development, positive peer influences, community outreach, personal enrichment and spiritual growth. Pastor Arnelio Gabin, Health director for the North Philippines Union Conference and an experienced youth director, notes “One of the beautiful things about Youth Alive is the friendship group. Participants are grouped into 8-12 member groups and they have family group activities which make them close to each other.”

Gabin cites the relational aspect in changing students’ relationships with their communities, others and themselves. “We do this program in our academies and it helps our students to become positive influences, to study well and become better students. For me this a good preventive program for our academies to prevent drop-outs and student problems,” he concluded.

First-time participant Rolyn A. Cadalig was convinced of the impact Youth Alive could have not only in SSD countries beyond the Philippines but within her own family. Cadalig, the Health Ministries director of the Mountain Provinces Mission in the Philippines, feels the program “is one way of nurturing young people in their faith and helping them to better face the issues they deal with. I think it can not only help the youth of our churches but my own children to be more relational.”

With this focus on real, positive relationships with God and others, the Adventist church can offer something technology cannot fully give youth – connection through relationship and creativity. Leaders believe this connection can create change. Cadalig comments that “by mobilizing our youth in this way, there will be greater member involvement in our churches and we will be more relational and intentional in meeting the needs of others.”

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