Lao PDR: Former ATS user role model for professionalism at work
Vientiane, April 15 2010 - Kita, 28, simply shatters stereotypes. Wearing a bright smile over a muscular body, Kita often uses words like "motivated", "skill" and "opportunity". The motivation: a one-year employment contract with Eurotech, long-established garment company in Vientiane. The skill: screen printing. The opportunity: vocational training at the Somsanga Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre in Vientiane.
"I personally believe in the good in people," says Eurotech owner and Kita's employer Peter Weinbrenner. "And he turns out to be one of my best people. In comparison with the others, he has got a solid education," he adds.
Kita got his education at the Somsanga drug treatment center in Vientiane. While undergoing treatment for methamphetamine (Yabaa) abuse, Kita signed-up for the UNODC-supported pilot vocational training programme back in 2009.
"I liked the idea of working with fabric and colors", says Kita when asked about his early interest for the screen printing activity.
In January, the Somsanga centre and Eurotech entered in a partnership, where trained patients from the vocational training programme at Somsanga have the opportunity to enroll in a paid internship at Eurotech. After satisfactory completion, the intern is awarded a contract for full-time employment. Only conditions: Skill and professionalism.
Kita is the first Somsanga patient to receive an employment contract with Eurotech upon his discharge from the centre. At the moment, ten other screen printing apprentices from the Somsanga halfway house are currently being considered for the internship programme at Eurotech.
"There's a serious shortage of qualified people" says Weinbrenner. "A lot of people are looking for work, but many of them have no clue what they're doing… Kita received excellent training at Somsanga. He is the most skilled worker I've ever had," he adds.
When asked about the happiest moments in his life, Kita surprisingly did not mention being released form the centre, being free from drugs or being reunited with his family.
"When I have a big order, and I finish it. That's when I'm happy" says Kita. "I would like to learn more. I would like to own my own business one day. Maybe even earn some good money." He added.
When asked about the reasons young people in Laos fall into the vicious cycle of Yabaa abuse, Kita's response is without hesitation: "Lack of opportunity."
"Opportunity is my drive," says Kita. "It's the reason why I don't use drugs anymore." "When you are young, unaware and without opportunity, your risks of falling into drug abuse are high. But if you have an opportunity, you have a goal, and drugs just get in the way."
While social stigma is something that former users have to deal with on a daily basis, Kita points out that knowledge sharing is one of the best ways to deal with it. "People stereotype. But they also listen. And if you take the time to honestly share your experience with them, they will learn from you, and they will understand."
UNODC has been implementing the pilot vocational training programme at the Somsanga treatment centre since 2009. In early 2010, the centre began offering community-based internship opportunities through several partnerships with the private sector and partner organizations. At present, offered internships offer opportunities in screen printing, culinary training, hairdressing, tailoring and motorcycle repair.