A Laudable Diplomatic Effort to Mentor Youth for a Drug Free Society

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Written by C. Naseer Ahmad

The coroner’s office in Centerville, Ohio declared on May 30, 2017 that the deaths of Spirit Airlines Pilot Brian and his wife Courtney Halye, parents of four children were caused by an overdose on cocaine and Brina carfentanyl. The sad story is emblematic of a growing Opioid crisis and drug abuse in USA, which is ravaging cities as it is devastating families and destroying lives. Death of a pilot should raise alarms and cause warning flash lights for public safety concerns.

Ms. Gunilla Girardo, President & CEO Mentor Foundation USA talked about the difficulties that “young people without a caring adult in their lives,” face very day – perhaps because of tragic stories that are coming out of Ohio and across the country. Describing the difficult challenges, Ms. Girardo mentioned, during a fundraising event at the Luxembourg Embassy, that there are“3 million kids who drop out of high school every year and every day 2,400 young people visit the ER (Emergency Room) for drug and alcohol related overdoses.” Ms. Girardo then talked about the solutions to this serious problem and mentioned that prevention is the key.

During her welcoming remarks, Ambassador Lucas mentioned that HRH Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg has enthusiastically supported the cause of mentoring youth in fighting the scourge of drug abuse in society. About the reason for this support for Mentor International, Ambassador Lucas quoted Grand Duke Henri: “Being a father of five, it was for me only natural to engage myself in this organization in order to help fight this plague of the 20th century.

In his remarks to the supporters of Mentor International, Mr. LaMont Wells, Chairman Mentor Foundation USA said: “For every child we can show that there is an alternative, it helps us all.” He explained the approaches taken by Mentor Foundation USA to teach the youth about talking about their experiences and tell their stories. “These kids are not drug users…and if you hear their stories, it will bring tears to your eyes,” said Mr. LaMont.

Dr. Bob DuPont, Board Member, Mentor Foundation USA and President, Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. said “Sweden is unique in the world …because of Sweden’s commitment to drug-free life.” He explained how Sweden confronted and tackled its problem with drug abuse and discovered what it took to address the societal problem. “It is un-Swedish to use drugs,” said Dr. DuPont, who had performed major roles including being the former Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse and the former White House Drug Chief.

Mr. Thomas A. Werner, who leads Substance Abuse Prevention through education and awareness in Maryland, stated his concern that about the disproportionate share of this problem meaning that “US has a small share of the world’s population but it consumes a very large proportion of drug use.”

Structured Finance Industry Group (SFIG), represented by Sairah Burki, Executive Director, was recognized for its strong support and partnership with Mentor Foundation USA for developing and providing “scholarship programs for the young people engaged in the Mentor Foundation’s programs.”

SFIG Foundation recently announced that 11 seniors from three school districts in Washington, D.C., New York, and Pennsylvania have been awarded scholarships to assist them as they pursue a college education. “These students have expressed interest in a variety of fields including nursing, computer science, law, business, education, psychology and global marketing.

The words of SFIG scholarship recipients give some reason for hope. For instance, Hanan Ibrahim – Youth Ambassador, Taconic Hills High School, New York said after receiving this scholarship that it “is an inspiring affirmation that making good choices can result to a good thing. Life is about choices and influences.” And, Tykeia Wheeler – Career Mentee, Cesar Chavez PCS Parkside, D.C. said that many “kids don’t have someone that would truly listen, and all I want to do is be that person.

Iceland’s Ambassador Mr. Geir H. Haarde, a former Prime Minister of Iceland, as well as Swedish Deputy Chief of Mission and several diplomats along with business leaders and friends of Luxembourg attended this serious public health issue.

HM Queen Silvia of Sweden is a Royal Trustee of Mentor International and launched this initiative. She is of the belief that to “lose hope, particularly when you are young and have your life ahead of you, is a terrible destiny.” Her leadership has led to the creation of a network dedicated to mentoring at-risk youth.

As part of this network, Mentor Arabia advocates in the 22 member countries of the Arab League “for drug prevention and promoting the health and well-being of children and young people in the Arab world as well as establishing a culture of drug prevention.

Last year, the Swedish Ambassador in Washington hosted Mentor Foundation USA’s charity event. Dr. Lonise Bias, mother of the famous basketball player Len Bias who died at age 22 due to drug overdose, gave a heart breaking account of losing two sons to drugs and gun violence.

The Luxembourg Embassy is one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington. Ambassador Lucas assisted by Ms. Elisabeth Herndler and the Embassy staff added to the beauty of their country by supporting a noble cause and building bridges diplomatically. The Embassy Chef treated the guests and supporters of Mentor Foundation USA to a sumptuous buffet featuring Luxembourg cuisine.