The VOA Men’s Residential Center (MRC) is a non-profit long-term residential rehabilitation center for men addicted to alcohol and drugs who are on parole or probation within Multnomah County.
Some years ago we decided that something more needed to be done within prevention and education, in hopes of avoiding addiction in the first place. In response we started the Speakers Bureau in 1994. We believe this program helps both the clients at the MRC and the students dealing with the risk factors that lead to addiction. A Speakers Bureau consists of bringing two or three clients from the MRC to a school, usually a health class, to talk to the students about how and why the clients started using drugs or alcohol. Focusing on the effects of addiction and the wreckage it causes, the clients tell their own personal stories followed by a time for questions and answers. I have seen this as a great opportunity for students to personalize addiction. They are able to ask questions about addiction and have them answered by those who have truly experienced it. The clients are also given a chance to add to society in a healthy, pro-social way, while also building self-esteem which has been torn down by addiction.
We love any opportunity to visit schools and see students demonstrate great insight through their questions. Clients have also shared that doing anything to prevent others from choosing a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, is both empowering and helps them continue to make clean and sober choices.
If your school or class has an interest in hosting a Speakers Bureau or would like more information please contact Tessa Fowler at TFowler@voaor.org or 503-802-0299.