Drug demand reduction programmes for young people in Hong Kong

Sections

ABSTRACT
Introduction
District campaigns
Activities of the district campaigns
Evaluation of the district campaigns
ACAN Youth Volunteer Group
Recruitment and training of AYVG
Activities of AYVG
Evaluation of AYVG
Youth Against Drugs Scheme
Activities of YADS
Evaluation of YADS

Details

Author: HANDRICK W. K. NG
Pages: 91 to 97
Creation Date: 1985/01/01

Drug demand reduction programmes for young people in Hong Kong

HANDRICK W. K. NG Principal Information Officer, Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Territory of Hong Kong

ABSTRACT

A wide range of drug demand reduction programmes are being carried out in Hong Kong. These include community involvement projects; preventive drug education and publicity through the use of mass media in the form of television and radio announcements and posters ; and the production of educational and publicity materials. Most of these programmes are intended to reach young people. The local district campaigns are held every year to arouse awareness of the dangers of drug abuse and to encourage public support in combating such abuse. A selected volunteer group encourages young people to participate in the planning, organization and implementation of drug-abuse prevention projects. A programme called "Youth against drugs scheme", which was launched in 1981, is open to all youth groups, providing an opportunity for young people to plan and implement anti-narcotics publicity projects in their own way with limited supervision. These programmes have proved successful in involving the young in the fight against drug abuse and associated problems.

Introduction

Twenty-three years have passed since Hong Kong launched its first public educational campaign to involve the community in fighting the drug abuse menace. The Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN) is the advisory body of the Government on all policy matters relating to measures against drug trafficking and abuse. The overall strategy consists of law enforcement, treatment and rehabilitation, preventive educational and publicity projects, and international co-operation.

The programmes for preventive education and publicity, which were initiated and have been supervised by a sub-committee of ACAN, include community involvement projects ; education and publicity through the mass media ; production of strategic educational and publicity materials ; and training of personnel for drug-abuse prevention- Over the years, the Government has attached great importance to the promotion of drug demand reduction programmes for young people. This article summarizes the salient points of the three most significant demand reduction programmes; the district campaigns ; "ACAN Youth Volunteer Group"; and "Youth Against Drugs Scheme".

District campaigns

In addition to the media publicity programmes and public education activities, anti-narcotics campaigns have been held each year in selected districts. The campaigns in the 1983/84 fiscal year have been implemented with full community involvement in all districts of Hong Kong.

The objectives of the district campaigns are:

  1. To warn the community of the dangers of drug abuse and to obtain active public support in combating drug abuse and trafficking;

  2. To dissuade and prevent young people, particularly those who are most exposed to the risk ofdrug abuse, from experimenting with illicit drugs ;

  3. To make known the treatment facilities available to drug addicts and to encourage the addicts to come forward for treatment.

The district campaigns were implemented according to a timetable established to spread the activities evenly over the year in all 18 districts of Hong Kong.

An amount of $HK 410,000 was allocated from the ACAN Community Involvement Projects to support the district campaigns. A further $HK 279,300 was provided by resources available to the City and New Territories Administration for activities in 10 urban districts, making a total of $HK 689,300 for the financial support for district campaigns.

Activities of the district campaigns

To organize the campaigns, anti-narcotics committees have been set up in all districts. The committee, chaired by a district board member, consists of community representatives and government officials. As the districts differ with regard to population density, geographic, social, economic and other conditions, the committee endeavours to organize activities to best meet the local needs. The main constituents of the programme include opening and closing ceremonies, pop concerts, exhibitions, television matches, dramas, beach shows, sports meets, disco nights, seminars and lectures, drawing competitions, slogan contests, and television and radio programmes. The main aim is to encourage participation of young people, particularly those in the 15 -24 age group.

The district anti-narcotics committees have sub-committees or working groups to organize and implement different activities. The office of a district officer provides the executive support for the district anti-narcotics committees in organizing the campaigns. The committees raise funds to provide financial support for programmes in addition to the funds provided by the Government. Contributions by local communities in some districts equal the amount of funds provided by the Government. This shows the high degree of community involvement in supporting the campaigns.

To promote the anti-narcotics campaign all districts have made banners and flags with logos and anti-narcotic slogans, which are displayed prominently throughout the districts. The costs of these are met by commercial companies.

The Narcotics Division provides policy guidance to the campaign. In designing the district campaign programmes, particular consideration is given to the proper use of slogans in disseminating the anti-drug message ; maintaining the interest of the participants ; the effectiveness of the media ; and the publicity derived from the campaign.

The district campaign is normally carried out for a period of from one to three weeks. Anti-narcotics publicity, prepared for the purpose of the campaign, is spread within a given district and is sometimes extended to Hong Kong.

To increase the effectiveness of the publicity, senior government officials and popular film and television celebrities are invited to participate in various activities. Press conferences announcing the activities are held a few days before the campaign Commences.

The media play a vital part in the campaign. Every year, a new series of television and radio announcements, posters and leaflets are prepared for the campaign. These publicity materials are broadcast, displayed and distributed to coincide with the various district campaigns.

Evaluation of the district campaigns

At the conclusion of the district campaigns, the various activities are evaluated. The effectiveness of these activities is examined on the basis of the number of people involved in the organization, participation and audience. An assessment showed that within the past fiscal year in which district campaigns were held, over one million people, mainly the young, were involved in the campaigns. As mobilizing the public towards such a worthwhile cause is of vital importance, this figure indicates that the district campaigns can be considered a success.

The media coverage is also an indicator for the evaluation of district campaigns. Since information on the activities was extensively given by the media, many people who were not involved in the campaign received the message through various communication Channels. The district campaigns in the fiscal year 1983/84 were launched for the first time throughout Hong Kong. Thus the intensive publicity programmes and activities organized by the district campaign committees should substantially contribute to the increase of public awareness of the danger of drug abuse.

The feedback from the various districts was very favourable. This would not have been possible without the active participation of the district community leaders and the support of the public at large.

ACAN Youth Volunteer Group

The ACAN Youth Volunteer Group (AYVG) was formed in September 1981 and 42 members formed the core of the Group. The members were selected from 70 participants at a training camp that had been organized by the Narcotics Division the preceding month. The membership of the Group has through the years been maintained at approximately 50 persons.

The purposes of setting up the AYVG are :

  1. To encourage young people to participate in the planning and organization of preventive educational and publicity projects ;

  2. To assist the Narcotics Division in organizing and implementing publicity projects ;

  3. To provide support to the district anti-narcotics campaigns ;

  4. To set an example to their peers of how young people can contribute to the prevention of drug abuse.

Recruitment and training of AYVG

Since 1981, new members of the Group have been periodically selected through the annual recruitment exercises conducted with the assistance of the Agency for Voluntary Service. During 1983 approximately 650 applications were received and 300 applicants were selected for interview. Of 100 applicants who performed well during the interviews, the 30 having the best records were invited to join the Group. Training was provided for the 30 selected in a camp setting using slide and film shows, discussions and role play. The purposes of the training camp are to introduce the new members and to educate them concerning drug-related problems, and also to brief them on the purposes and functions of AYVG,

Activities of AYVG

Members of the Group have been actively involved in the implementation of preventive educational and publicity projects. The Group has accumulated much experience and confidence and is now able to implement activities of its own. The Group's self-initiated projects were highlighted in the publication Anti-Narcotics Creative Activities, 1983for young people residing in the suburban area of the New Territories. The programme included drama, script-writing, lyric-writing, book-mark and slogan design, on-the-spot drawing competitions and a prize-giving ceremony.

AYVG was originally provided with a clubhouse at a medical centre that unfortunately had to be demolished because of road construction. A vacant room of about 100 m 2was identified in mid-1983 and it has been adapted for the clubhouse that is essential to provide a gathering place for volunteers and to help to instil a sense of their belonging to the Group.

AYVG produces a quarterly newsletter that deals with drug-abuse prevention and AYVG activities. The volunteers contribute most of the articles and also participate in the preparation, editing and printing process of the newsletter. The newsletter is distributed to the volunteers and Narcotics Division staff, and externally to the Agency for Volunteer Service, and related government departments and agencies. This is the first volunteers newsletter and it has proved to be very successful in providing a valuable ground for the dissemination of information, exchange of experience and expression of ideas and personal opinions on different aspects of drug-related questions.

In 1983/84, the total expenditure for the operation of the Group and its activities amounted to $HK 39,308, which included the remuneration for a temporary project organizer, who provided guidance and advice to the Group. In the current fiscal year, a sum of $HK 70,000 has been budgeted to support the work of the Group.

Evaluation of AYVG

The success of the Group can be evaluated on the basis of the following observations :

  1. Overwhelming applications for appointment as volunteers to the Group have been received during all the previous recruitment exercises, which shows that the volunteers have created and maintained a prestigious image and set a good example to other young people ;

  2. A high degree of devotion, enthusiasm, initiative and resourcefulness has been demonstrated by all members of the Group, which has considerably contributed to the success of the preventive educational and publicity projects ;

  3. When the Group was first formed, the main function of the volunteers was to provide logistic support to implement the ACAN drug abuse prevention programmes. As more experience, knowledge and confidence have been gained through the years, the role of the Group has gradually become more prominent. The Group has become more versatile in promoting self-initiated projects and activities including the publication Anti-Narcotics Creative Activities, 1983, the AYVG newsletter, a slidemaking project and a swimming gala for factory workers ;

  4. The members of the Group have increased its cohesiveness through their striving to attain the common anti-narcotics goal. Through this cohesion and various activities promoted by the Group, individual members are able to achieve personal growth to their own benefit as well as to the benefit of their communities.

Youth Against Drugs Scheme

Most drug addicts start experimenting with drugs during adolescence, mainly because of curiosity, peer-group pressure and escapism from frustration. Therefore young people are the most important target group for preventive educational and publicity efforts. The "Youth Against Drugs Scheme" (YADS) is a programme that was initiated in August 1981 to encourage an active and direct participation of the young in anti-narcotics work through preventive education and publicity. The Scheme was designed to enable young people to plan and implement anti-narcotics educational publicity projects in their own way, with limited supervision. It is hoped that with this new approach the Scheme will enable young people to learn and understand more about the problem of drug abuse and concurrently pass on the anti-narcotics message to their peers in their own local settings. The Scheme is open to any youth group constituting at least 10 or more members who are 15 years of age or above. Successful groups receive from the Government from $HK 1,000 to $HK 3,000 to Cover expenses, depending on the size of the project.

The launching of the Scheme in 1981 was accompanied by publicity with posters and application forms that were distributed to all secondary schools and welfare agencies dealing with youth groups. Twenty-one applications were received from five secondary schools and sixteen youth groups. Only two applications were not accepted as their proposed projects were impractical or outside the scope of the scheme.

Activities of YADS

The 19 groups that have been selected have organized a variety of activities including seminars, exhibitions, competitions, game days, television matches, song-writing, camping and painting. Although the max- imum grant for one individual project is $HK 3,000, all groups have made considerable efforts to Cut down on Costs and draw on their own imagination and resources to implement their programmes.

With a view to helping the participants to gain a better understanding of the drug-abuse problem in Hong Kong and to afford an opportunity for a free exchange of ideas, a training camp was organized for 160 representatives of the 19 project groups in November 1981 . The participants were given a detailed briefing on the various aspects of the drug-abuse problem so that they would become more knowledgeable in promoting drug-abuse preventive work in their respective schools and communities.

Following this training camp the 160 representatives reported on what they had learned in the camp to their individual project groups and started preparatory work. Staff of the Narcotics Division paid visits to all project groups, attended meetings and working sessions, rendered assistance and gave advice as required.

The anti-narcotics campaigns carried out in 1983/84 with full community involvement were accorded a major role in combating drug abuse and trafficking. Thus, financial and labour resources were allocated to district and territory-wide campaigns and consequently only nine YADS projects were approved. The activities included an exhibition, slide show, group discussion, seminar, film show and hiking.

Evaluation of YADS

The objective of YADS has been accomplished as indicated by the favourable responses to the Scheme, the earnest efforts put into the self initiated projects and the enthusiastic participation in inter-school and interdistrict projects. Through planning, organizing and operating of project activities, members of the project groups have devoted much effort and time to learning about the drug-abuse problem and also have exercised the imaginative and creative power of the members in proposing new ideas and means to promote anti-drug activities.

Another encouraging feature of the Scheme is that many project groups have expanded in terms of the number of volunteers and scope of activities carried out. The Scheme in itself is very appealing to many young people who are ready to join in the fight against drug abuse and trafficking.

In view of the success of and the encouraging responses to the Scheme over the past three years, it was recommended that it should continue and a sum of $HK 100,000 has been made available for its operation. Approximately 25 projects are expected to be approved in 1984/85.