Ex-gang member joins the battle against drugs
- An estimated 200 million people worldwide use illegal drugs. (2017 World
- In the U.S., there were over 4.6 million drug-related visits to hospital emergency rooms in a one-year period. (Drugabuse.gov)
- There are over 57,000 visits to the Drug-Free World website daily.
- Every month, over 5,600 orders of the Truth About Drugs materials are sent in online.
Every week, over 2,000 orders are placed online for the Global Salvage campaign materials. From the What Are Human Rights? booklets to the Truth About Drugs booklets, anyone can order these materials online for free, thanks to IAS support.
One example is the story of Tony Mendez, who found the Truth About Drugs program online and started a crusade to educate youth across Guatemala:
Tony was born and raised in a Christian family where both of his parents were pastors. He grew up with high values, as his parents set a good example of an ethical life.
However, in his teenage years, he got lost along the way and slid down the dwindling spiral of drug abuse. At the age of 18, Tony was caught with cocaine and went to jail. When released, he told himself he would change, but he joined a gang and got even deeper into drugs. At 24 years old came the news that his father had only three months to live. Tony was devastated, “I wanted to make up for everything I had done.” He spent days and nights with his father, until his father’s passing. “I felt so guilty that I didn’t listen to him when he was alive.”
Despite promising that he would change his ways, Tony once more found himself back in the drug trade and incarcerated. It wasn’t until 2001, while in prison and with a two-year-old son back home, that he finally saw the light. “I didn’t want my son to take the same road,” Tony said. “I was tired of running away from reality and always being unhappy. I made a final and truthful decision: I was going to make a difference in my life and help others.”
Since that day, Tony has been drug-free and found a new purpose in life: to educate youth on the harmful effects of drugs. He founded a juvenile intervention program in Guatemala, a program that steers youth away from drugs and crime through life skill classes and education. At the core of his program is the Truth About Drugs curriculum.
Tony first found the program while searching online for drug education materials. His search led him to drugfreeworld.org and he knew he had found what he was looking for. Tony received the materials and immediately began implementing the program. “The more you know about drugs the more you think before using—you are not so interested anymore,” he says. “It’s hard to see these kids fall for drugs and violence. I know from experience how it feels not to have a person to talk to and make bad decisions.”
He tells of one of the many lives he has touched: “A 13-year-old kid came to me after class and told me he needed help—he was on drugs, was a hitman and he didn’t know a way out. I got him into rehabilitation and, once a week, taught him the Truth About Drugs. Now he is back in school, and his grades and his life have changed forever—and he wants to be a drug counselor.”
Tony has mentored hundreds of youth across seven schools in Guatemala and gets calls every other day from parents who want their kids on his program. He even visits the youth that “didn’t listen” and are now in jail. “I see myself in every kid that calls out for help. Because everybody deserves a second chance,” he says. “My plans are to have this program in every city and to be known in every school all across Central America—that is my dream. If my father was alive, I know he would be proud of me… it’s the same thing he was doing as a pastor—helping others.”