Sonita Abrahams Working To Prevent Addictive Disorders In Jamaica
Sonita Abrahams is the Executive Director of RISE Life Management Services (Reaching Individuals Through Skills and Education), Yoga teacher at Afya Yoga Center, mother and grandmother. YardEdge talks to Sonita about working with at risk youth in Jamaica…
YardEdge: Tell us about your work?
Sonita: I was hired in October of 1990 as the Administrator for a new outpatient treatment center for addictive disorders called Addiction Alert Organization, due to my experience in operating my own business and my training in clinical psychology. By that December I was promoted to Executive Director.
I think that I was lead to this work because of my educational background in psychology, but also due to my desire to help people who were not able to effectively help themselves. I then had the good fortune to be awarded a Fullbright scholarship in 1993 and went to Johns Hopkins University as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow, and stayed on for an additional year to pursue a master’s degree in Health Sciences.
On my return home to Addiction Alert, my newly acquired learning influenced a more holistic approach that changed the direction of the agency towards more prevention work with at-risk populations in educational and health-related areas.
Today, 19 years later, we have a new name – RISE (acronym for Reaching Individuals through Skills and Education) Life Management Services, that reflects the services being offered for at-risk populations from inner city communities, including remedial education, life skills/management training, vocational skills training, adult life long learning, counseling, parenting skills training.
Services for addictive disorders include a drug counseling toll free hotline, assessments, drug testing, referrals, individual and group counseling, prevention education in designated school and Employee Assistance Programmes for the Workplace. Our most recent achievement was winning a prestigious scientific poster competition in the U.S. for our study on Gambling among Jamaican Adolescents, and also becoming a HEART/NTA accredited vocational training institution with our first group of trainees to graduate in May 2009, along with the first set of certified Youth Development Officers in the Caribbean.
I also wrote and coordinate an on-line course for UWI’s Open Campus in the area of “Adolescents and Drugs”, which I am proud of as I do enjoy teaching although it was a tremendous amount or work!
I am a member of a Global Task force on Strategic Drug Policy and the regional consultant for the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs “Beyond 2008”
In August of 2000, I decided that I wanted to become a certified yoga teacher and attended the Kripalu Yoga Institute in the U.S.A. A couple years later Afya Yoga Studio was build with assistance of my daughter Natasha and her husband and a group of our teachers became certified in the wonderful discipline of pilates, which is a perfect compliment to yoga. I continued my yoga studies and completed an additional 500 hours of training in the Amrit method of teaching.
Today, the studio is my sanctuary as it is for many others, with its unique architectural design and indigenous materials like Jamaican driftwood. It was built among the fruit trees in my back yard and is fertile ground for many different exotic flowers and shrubs.
I consider yoga to be one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself, as it not only keeps me healthy of mind body and spirit, but also enables me to help students successfully deal with their own challenges, and come to a place of balance and well-being. My personal practice which includes daily breath work, has also helped me to meet the many challenges encountered with funding the vital work being undertaken by RISE in inner city Kingston.
YardEdge: What are your plans for the future?
Sonita: To secure funding for Rise for the next 5 years. To attract more students and good qualified teachers for Afya. To be in a position to take more time off from work to spend with my children and grandchildren.
YardEdge: What kind of help do you need?
Sonita: For Rise, one or two new board members with a passion for the work we do (addictive disorders and community/educational/health interventions) and the contacts to attract funding, especially from Jamaicans/Agencies/foundations abroad.
YardEdge: What are your biggest challenges?
Sonita: Balancing all of my work related activities, while leaving time for R & R. Deciding to make the time to entertain the idea of attracting a male partner into my life; one with integrity who brings to the relationship companionship and compatibility, a sense of humour, fun, friendship and intimacy.
YardEdge: What have been your greatest rewards?
Sonita: Being involved in two businesses that help people to become healthier, happier, balanced individuals.
Having a wonderful relationship with family, friends and co-workers. My two incredible children that I am very proud of and who I have a great relationship with, and my two wonderful grandsons. My only regret is that they live abroad and I am not able to be as involved in their life as I’d like to be.
You can contact Sonita via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more about RISE Life Management Services
For more about Afya Yoga Studio
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love. Do not wait for leaders: do it alone, person by person.” Mother Theresa