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Canadian youth drug free project 2011 (Christian Zheng Sheng Association)

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Uploaded on Mar 3, 2011

In a show of unity, representatives from the RCMP, the City of Richmond, the Richmond School District and Scout Canada showed support for a new initiative aimed at helping kids stay off drugs.

The Canadian Youth Drug-Free Project, the brain child of the Integrated Youth Services Society (IYSS), will see a group of students from Hong Kong visit Grade 8 and 9 students in Richmond to talk about drugs.

And the visiting teens know what they're talking about. All are former drug addicts currently attending Christian Zheng Sheng College, a one-of-a-kind accredited high school in Hong Kong. Its students are all referrals from social workers and the judicial system.

"It is an extremely successful program," said Esther Ho, executive director of IYSS.

Before immigrating to Canada, Ho was a social worker in Hong Kong and worked with many youth who attended the school.

"Their success rate for keeping kids off drugs is very high."

Moreover, the school has an excellent academic program, making employers eager to hire its graduates, said Ho.

The combination of academics and drug treatment makes the school unique as does the fact students and staff all live on the campus, creating an cohesive, supportive environment.

While there is no such school here, the concept of integration is well understood to be fundamental in helping kids make healthy choices, said Const. Tammy-Lyn Walker, a Richmond RCMP officer who runs the D.A.R.E program in Richmond's elementary schools.

D.A.R.E. teaches Grade 5 students about what drugs can do to one's body, but more importantly it coaches them in how to make positive decisions.

By while cops in schools can help some kids stay on track, for others the message hits closer to home when it's coming from a peer, which is why Ho thinks the Drug-Free Project, in which kids who have been there and back, talk to local students, will be effective.

"This is our hope that through their stories, the tragedy of what can happen when dealing with drugs, and the testimonies of coming out of that lifestyle can be a positive influence and inspiration to the teenagers (here.)"

The youth will be in Richmond for two weeks from Feb. 12-27. In that time they will speak with various school and Scout groups.

Helping youth stay clean, however, isn't done just by telling them what not to do. It's also done by providing positive things to do, said Krista Germyn, a leader with the city's youth services department.

Richmond trustee Chak Au said the same is for parents, it's not just about tell your kids not to do drugs, it's about being engaged in their lives.

Airfare for the students will be paid for by their school, while IYSS will cover their costs while here.

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