PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 November, 2014, 4:20am
The headquarters of Remar Hong Kong sits in the middle of a field in Yuen Long, surrounded by greenery and mountains.
The cosy two-storey house is also home to fish, birds and two big, friendly dogs. “We really like animals,” said Claudio Salguiero, a recovered addict and volunteer.
Salguiero and John Silva have seen an estimated 60 addicts come and go each year from non-profit Remar Hong Kong since 1998 when they started free rehabilitation services.
But after 16 years of hard work, the organisation’s Hong Kong branch faced a premature end because of an old truck.
Remar Hong Kong receives donations from large companies and other charities, but its self-sustaining model also requires them to gather old furniture from donors, which they then restore and sell. According to Salguiero, the truck is still running but is nearing its end.
“Our truck is worn and it cannot run much longer. We cannot support this programme next year if the truck isn’t replaced,” he said.
The non-profit organisation – a beneficiary for this year’s annual Operation Santa Claus fundraising campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK – is getting HK$400,000 for a new truck to continue its rehabilitation service for addicts in Hong Kong.
Addictions, Silva said, range from heroin and cocaine to cough syrup. “We have around 12 addicts at a time,” he said.
Volunteers often give these addicts massages and join them in group sessions daily.
“Sometimes we take them to the mountains for fresh air. The house here helps addicts to recover due to the nature and quiet,” Silva said.
“Some of our addicts are clean after two to three months. We know many of them with good jobs now and a lot of them have taken up work at other [rehabilitation] centres.”
Apart from rehabilitating addicts, Remar Hong Kong also offers help to the needy. “Poor people from churches get our help too when furniture doesn’t all sell,” Salguiero said.
The pair used to be addicts themselves.
Silva, a Portuguese national and former electronics repairman, fought alcohol addiction.
“My alcohol problems started in school, and then I drank with colleagues. When I got my first job, I drank every lunch, every dinner,” Silva said. “I was struggling when I learned of this organisation and decided to stay after I overcame my addiction.”
Salguiero went from marijuana to hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
“I came to Remar in 1999 in England for my first rehabilitation,” Salguiero said. “Since then, I’ve been 10 years free from addiction and I want to help people like Remar helped me.”
Salguiero has been helping Silva in Hong Kong since 2012.
Remar was founded in Spain by Miguel Diez and his wife as an evangelical organisation in 1982.