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FARMWORK HELPS TEENS KICK DRUG ABUSE 
(The Mail Star and The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Monday, May 4, 1998
article by John MacIntyre
 
    Braden Meisner, 21, had his first toke at 10.
 
    He was drinking and using drugs daily by the time he was 16. In his grade 11 year at Parkview Education Centre in Bridgewater, his highest mark was 30, and to make matters worse, that same year, 1994, he was also facing a charge of marijuana possession.
    Fast forward to this sleepy Saturday morning in May some four years later and Mr. Meisner is helping Greg and Don Eikle swing around a hundred-year-old plow as two oxen make end-to-end tills of a field in Crousetown.
    About 25 teens, all with substance abuse problems, are picking rocks from the soil, getting the field ready for planting.
    The planting project is one of the programs of the Youth Support Foundation, a 12 year-old program run by the Western Regional Health Board to help young adults kick booze and drug abuse.
     So far in 1998, two addiction services counselors have seen more than 230 students in the Lunenburg-Queens school system who have come to them with substance abuse problems. The normal caseload for a professional addiction counselor is 50 a year.
     Mr. Meisner, now a volunteer with the program, is pretty certain what might have happened to him had the Youth Support Foundation not been available. "It made the difference (and) it allowed me to turn my life around," he said. "I was dealing quite heavily and I said enough is enough. I was seeing stuff I shouldn't have been seeing and I just realized that if I wanted to get out, that was my opportunity, and I did so."
    The idea for the project came from Terry Goodwin, a Youth Support volunteer and board member of the Foundation. He had the good fortune to be working with joan Wentzell, who operated a local farm with her husband Kerry. the Wentzells agreed to donate .4 hectares of land, and on Saturday, the project took root.
     For Mr. Meisner, he is paying off an old debt. he just completed his first year of university at St. Thomas in New Brunswick. "There is a bunch of us who went through the program and we are all there for each other when we see somebody screwing up," the Newcombville resident said. "I think the kids do a lot better seeing that I turned my life around and now I am in university and doing pretty good." 

 
RETURNING TO BASICS TO FIGHT DRUG ABUSE 
(The Bulletin and The Progress Enterprise, Bridgewater, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia)
Wednesday, May 20, 1998
article by Mark Roberts
 
    Fighting oxen and the team plough through the thick sod, a misty rain on the back, and rocks and mud under feet, laughter moves members of the Youth Support Program another step towards recovering from the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse.
    Youth Support program clients are organically raising vegetables and herbs on 0.4 hectares of land offered by Youth Support Foundation board members and Stoney Brook Family Farm owners Kerry and Joan Wentzell. Mr. Wentzell says, "I thought it was a good idea to do something for the kids. Our older daughter wasn't part of the group, but she went through a phase and was in trouble. We thought it was a good idea to help kids with drug and alcohol problems and to help build up their self-esteem."
    Youth Support Program founder George Munroe says, "The vegetables and herbs will be sold. Part of the proceeds will be donated to food banks and the rest will be sold to raise money for the Youth Support Program."
    Foundation board member Terry Goodwin arrived at the idea of using the Crousetown farm and accompanying greenhouse as a form of therapy. The teenagers and program volunteers have tilled and cleared the land and constructed the greenhouse over the past two weekends. Mr. Munroe says, "It's helpful for building self-esteem. It's important because a lot of kids with substance abuse problems don't have recreational skills or the ability to have fun without drugs or alcohol. It's incredibly valuable."
    He continues, "With using the oxen, we're returning to the old way of farming. This is the way the old German settlers tilled their field. It's also a good way of teaching Lunenburg County history to the kids. We're trying it as a pilot and obviously it's working because the kids are enjoying it."
    Thirty teenagers are involved with "The Farm Project". Over 200 teenagers in Lunenburg and Queens Counties have already been helped by the program in 1998. The 12-year-old program is designed to assist young people between the ages of 13 and 19 through in-school and community-based services. Any youth showing signs of substance abuse or is affected by substance abuse in the family is welcome. program components include counselling, peer counselling, detoxification, recreation and life skills training, peer-led public awareness campaigns, community involvement initiatives and weekly support meetings. The program's fundraising body is the Youth Support Foundation.
    Mr. Munroe thanks Mr. and Mrs. Wentzell for providing yet another unique opportunity in what is already a unique program. "I started the program in 1986 and this is one of the most exciting things we've ever done."
    The youth in the program cannot be identified. Program graduate Christina Hymers, however, returned home from St. Thomas University in New Brunswick to assist the group and the Farm Project. She is currently studying to be an addictions counsellor and literally owes her life to the Youth Support Program. Ms Hymers says, "The group, even though I've moved on, is still my family. It's something I'll always remember and something I'll always return to. Being there, I know what it's like, and I want to give back what has already been given to me."
    Ms Hymers started drinking alcohol when she was only 10 years old. She started smoking marijuana at 15 years of age and later took LSD. A friend finally brought her to the group. She was 16 at the time. Ms. Hymers said she hit 'rock bottom' three years ago. "I was supposed to bring in New Year's Eve with my family but I was at a party. When they came to get me, I was passed out in the middle of the highway." Through Youth Support Services, however, she says, she is now drug and alcohol-free and is devoting much of her life to helping others through speaking engagements, her chosen career field and other activities. "One of the main rewards was a teenager who came up to me and said, "after hearing you talk, I quit." She continues, "I certainly wouldn't be at university if it wasn't for George and the group. I don't know how I would have turned out."
    Braden Meisner is also studying to be an addictions counsellor at St. Thomas University. He, like Ms. Hymers, says textbooks help, but 'being there' makes it easier to talk to students about drug and alcohol abuse. "I know a lot about it, what it takes to get out of it, to beat the addiction."
    he says he 'hung around' with the wrong crowd, but was popular in school. "I was invited to a lot of parties and fell into a hole with alcohol and drugs." "The group," he says, saved his life. "I actually feel like I have something to shoot for now. I also realize there are more important things in life than getting a job. It's getting out in the world and helping people. i want to give back and show kids who are having trouble there is a life without drugs and alcohol.
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