George Ochieng Odalo, 28 years old, social worker from Kenya and the founder of Slum Child Foundation.

As a street child in the slums of Nairobi George met the same reality that he meets today and felt the same feelings.

– I became a street child when my father died. But I survived; someone saw my potential and introduced me to a person who paid for my schooling.

In 2008 George founded the Slum Child Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with street children in Nairobi.

– I want to fight for other children, says George Odalo who is at the World Forum to learn. Among the children I work with, one out of three uses drugs and a lot of people has died from illicit drugs in my home country.

What has been the most interesting at the Forum?

– The lecture with the American judge about Drug Treatment Court in the US is one of the best lectures I have been to. When I come home I want to engage the President and our Supreme Court and the chairperson of the Board for Control and Substance Abuse. I want to investigate if we can implement the system in Kenya. The Kenyan society needs to be more respondent towards people who use drugs. Today they are afraid of the police, but if we can have a system that can provide treatment if they are arrested we can step by step create a society where people feel safe.

What does this event in Stockholm mean to you?

– The Forum makes a big difference, especially around the issue of marijuana which is a big problem back home.

How is the situation around illicit drugs in your home country?

– Cannabis is the biggest problem. We Africans like to imitate western countries and now there are for example cookies with marijuana, just like in the West. The influence of the Rastafarian culture increases and it leads to more abuse of cannabis. The corruption is widespread and several high officials and prominent persons are involved in the trafficking of drugs.

A lot of young Kenyans have president Obama as a role model and George often hears “you say that cannabis is bad but Obama wants to legalize it. He is our role model, he comes from our country and we follow in his footsteps. He says it is good, who are you to say that it is bad?”

Is the drug issue prioritized in Kenya?

– No, the government of the country tries to discharge the issue. The government needs to do something but they are not willing to take the fight. If the government would prioritize the issue more our organization could do a lot more.

What do you think about the legalization wave around the world?

– The long term effects of legalization will be difficult. With the challenges that Africa faces, like for example poverty, legalization can hit the continent harder than even malaria and hiv have done. In the Western countries you have treatment possibilities, but in Africa poverty is the biggest problem and it is not possible to prioritize treatment. Food for the day is the most important for many people.

What do you say to the youth you meet in order to get them to stop with cannabis?

– I tell them that those who take drugs end up in the mental institution, is shot by the police, quit school, stop having dreams. That is the life I describe for them. They have to stay away from drugs if they want to have a good life. Follow in my footsteps and it will be ok. If you take drugs you will not live any longer, you days are numbered and it ends up with you dying, says George.

Pernilla Rönnlid, Drugnews

Interview made At the World Forum Against Drugs by Drugnews, the original text can be found here:
Translated by Linda Nilsson, WFAD

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