a story of success
- Looking Back
- Photo Gallery
- Boldly Go … With The Teenex Force
- LOOKING BACK ON THE GROWTH OF TEENEX …
Ann Stoker, a drug treatment and prevention specialist directed two drug agencies in West London boroughs in the 1980s/1990s. Each of these agencies, SaBu in Hillingdon and CEDAR in Hounslow worked directly with drug users, individually and in group sessions. Courses were run for parents and teachers in schools and colleges in the area. A weekly youth group was initiated for youngsters involved in glue sniffing and through their attendance at the club they were encouraged to meet on a one-to-one basis with counsellors and helped to stop using.
When I was first asked to tackle the problem of drug abuse in our town, back in 1988 there was no mention of Prevention in my job briefing. The assumption then by most authorities was that all energy should be focused on treating the problem, and helping people who had developed the problem. This is an understandable assumption to make. But as I explored the international research on the subject, I soon found that there was more that could be done before problems developed – and this was the great potential of prevention. There will always be some people who develop problems, for their own personal reasons or their social situation, and of course they must be helped to recover, but the primary goal, for the health and economic prosperity of society, should be to help the great majority of people to avoid such problems.
At this time I was completing my degree course and became extremely interested in the psychology of social learning theory. Much of my experience with young people had come from working with teenagers in youth club settings and in particular with those youngsters who had begun to use illegal drugs. Research showed that there are two societal groups who are more influential on young people than any other – parents, and the young people themselves – this group we now call ‘peers’. I also found that in general, the reasons why most people get involved can be defined under 5 headings – curiosity, peer pressure, pleasure–seeking, boredom and escape from problems. My husband Peter also worked in the CEDAR drug agency and we had been attending PRIDE (Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education) conferences in the USA – at our own expense – for five or six years. One year I persuaded my manager to allow me to spend some of my training budget to send four young people to America to attend a PRIDE camp. They came back brimming with confidence and enthusiasm for drug prevention and became founder members of a youth drug prevention group. Later we were able to encourage twelve others to attend a PRIDE conference one year – raising all their own money to do this.
I had designed and delivered training packages for parents, but now I wanted to design a package which would address the reasons why young people use drugs – a package for young people, which would allow them to be directly involved – instead of just being recipients of older people’s knowledge. I had seen the fun that youngsters had at PRIDE camps with singing and dancing and believed this could be included in a wider drug prevention programme. This was the birth of Teenex.
Teenex has a philosophy – Trust the Process. We address curiosity about drugs by giving accurate and unbiased information about substances, we teach peer pressure reversal techniques, we keep the participants busy from the time they wake up until they go to bed – no time to be bored. We have fun ! We play games, we write skits. We learn to sing and dance. In small groups we discuss emotions – why we feel as we do, we share problems and make friends who will help us deal with sadness, bullying, bereavement, divorce. Friends with whom we can share our dreams and our aspirations. All this learning is done in a supportive and positive environment. No lectures – lots of discussion. No adults preaching – just peers helping each other and learning how to have fun without drugs, how to resist peer pressure and how to motivate their friends to be drug free also.
Since then, Teenex was been introduced to Portugal where over 30 camps were run in one year, to Poland, and to Bulgaria. In the UK sadly Teenex was unable to continue due to lack of adequate funding but our colleagues in Germany have thrived for over 15 years since Ann and Peter Stoker visited Germany and shared the Teenex philosophy with enthusiastic workers in a trainers camp.
Since then, under the excellent direction of Corrina and Axel and their team Teenex in Berlin has thrived and Teenex e.V. now has a permanent home – a castle no less ! – and continues to run Teenex camps as well as rehabilitation programmes for drug users, a mother and baby facility, training placements for psychology students and much more. We cannot praise their achievements too highly and we are proud to have been a part of the Teenex success story in Germany.
We recently visited Teenex e.V. to meet up with our colleagues and were given a full tour of their new building Schloss Blossin, the main castle building and the training block; we saw a well-preserved and nicely-decorated establishment. We also met some of the current residents, who gave us an impromptu presentation, and we met several of the staff. The overall impression was of an impressive, professionally-run operation.
Programmes are not limited to drug/alcohol treatment; they also address academic requirements, and they also provide specialised training and craft rooms.
Teenex is an example of good practice in prevention. More than twenty years after the first Teenex camp we put a little message on Facebook asking anyone who had attended a Teenex camp to tell us what they remembered ….. we have put together a few comments received – although it was just one week, they write to say how this experience impacted their lives and how they have never forgotten what they learnt.
- TESTIMONIALS – FEW TEENEX GRADUATES GIVING THEIR COMMENTS
What Teenex means to me; Teenex was a camp I attended when I was 16. I met some amazing new friends, learned about the effects of drugs, and put on a show. The camp helped me build my confidence, learn how to get to know people in a short space of time, and now those people have become life-long friends.
I am extremely grateful that I was able to attend Teenex and feel it is so valid for our youth today. We do not need drugs to get by in life and the earlier we teach that the better!!
Teenex had such a profound impact on my life, it affected me in so many ways directly and indirectly. I do remember being so apprehensive going to my first Teenex course in early 1998, heading down to Slough I was not sure what to expect. I was a naturally shy, quiet person with a lack of self-confidence, so something like this was definitely out of my comfort zone. By the end of that incredible week, I had learnt so much about myself, grown in self-confidence and had made friends for life. I was still a fairly shy, quiet person but I knew I was a different person and for the better!
The next year I was surprised to be offered a role as a facilitator for the new ‘Teenexcel’ advanced training course. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but Ann, Peter and Neil obviously thought I was capable, so that offer of encouragement from people I admire so much was a real boost for me. That week was another unique experience for me. I knew I had some leadership skills from my time in St John Ambulance, but that week helped me a lot and taught me so much. I was now hooked onto Teenex.
From there I got more involved with Teenex, running their newsletter and even running courses! I loved every single part, making a new set of friends each time, learning so much and growing so much personally. These experiences and helping the NDPA, had a big impact on my life. If it weren’t for Teenex, I would never have won a contest to become a TV presenter or be an extra in movies. I would never have had the opportunity to speak in the House of Lords or visit 10 Downing Street. I would never have learnt the skills or had the confidence to co-run four international fan conventions in Canada, and I would certainly have not progressed in my career to where I have so far. I am now happily married and living in Melbourne Australia, enjoying life and still keeping in touch with the friends I made from Teenex.
Notice how I have not mentioned drug prevention once yet? I was nervous going to my first course because I was worried it was a rehab thing and I certainly didn’t have a drug problem. Yes drug prevention was obviously the main focus, but to me Teenex was about so much more than that. It was about helping teenagers in their lives, making them aware about the dangers and traps that young people can be drawn into, not just with drugs, but with peer pressure, bullying, personal problems and how to deal with them. I have seen so many people on those courses grow and face the problems they had in their lives. For some it was a relatively small issue, for some it was much more (drug related or otherwise), but Teenex provided a safe, supportive environment, run by caring people. To see these people, my friends, recognise or face a problem they may have had in their lives at that point, was so powerful and inspiring it rubbed off on everyone else.
I guess that’s the overall message of Teenex, leading a positive drug-free life. If only every teenager in the UK had the opportunity to take part in a Teenex course, it would certainly be a much better place. There would also be a national wool/fuzzy shortage of epic proportions!
Love and best wishes to you all. John
Hi Peter, saw your Facebook request about Teenex & thought I would reply. Where to start……I think I first attended Teenex in the mid 90’s through St. John Ambulance & them wanting to get involved I was sent to see what it was all about with a few other cadets from around the country. I had no idea what to expect. What I found where the most amazing kind inspiring real talking people I had met who genuinely believed I had potential in life & that by inspiring me to follow my natural talents & challenge the areas of my life where I was less confident in, in a way that was encouraging I never found the need in my life to use drugs. Looking back as an adult now I see the resilience Teenex helped me to develop over the many programmes I attended has made me an adult I know my friends & family r proud of. I want my 3 daughters to be inspired by their mother & see no matter what life throws at you of which there is much shite; you can be strong, you can still be kind & you can survive without drugs to do it. Most recently my life fell apart at the age of 32 I’d just had my 2nd child had been married for 10yrs when my then husband just walked out & left me to run a house financially on my own & raise to small children. 8 weeks later my mum, the rock in my life, suddenly passed away, 2 months after that my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me I telling you this because you know what, life throws each of us curve balls & I could have curled up into a ball & drank myself stupid or gone & got stoned to numb the pain but you know as long ago as Teenex was in my life a few things stayed true to me. 1. I am loved & cared for by people who know me & yet to know me. 2. I am a strong intelligent woman & I need to face what is in front of me not numb it or bury it. 3. I am not a victim but a born survivor & life can be & will be shite at times but a fuzzy hug, a little pat on the back, a kind word can make the difference between something being completely shite to bearably shite.
And most importantly, nothing lasts forever … life moves on. My life now is full of fun, laughter, adventure & most importantly love. I have a new partner and another beautiful daughter. I have been blessed to have met some amazing people through teenex & I thank my lucky stars I had the opportunity to go to that random week in Slough back in the 90’s. Ann & Peter are amazing true inspirational people & what they have devoted their lives to has made a difference & I am proof of that.
Love & fuzzy hugs . Kate.
“Your sensitivity is well touching”
“The friendliest and most brilliant leader I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet”
…… Two of the comments on our facilitator feedback sheet from Teenex ’89. Perhaps people will think it’s a little egotistical of me to highlight these or even to have kept the sheet all these years but to me the biggest benefit Teenex and its camps brought to those who participated in any way was feeling good or better about yourself.
I was a facilitator for Teenex residential weekends back in the late ‘80s in Hounslow, West London. I was in my early 20s and had a keen interest in drug prevention education. Teenex fitted this. The camps gave the young people who attended the opportunity to express themselves in so many different ways and to meet other young people they could discuss issues with that concerned them in a fun and safe environment. They shone, even the ones who did not naturally feel the need to shine in the obvious ways, shone. There was debate, soul searching thinking new thoughts, acting, singing, late night stories. I believe every single young person who attended those camps left with a seed planted to question and not simply follow. I know I did.
Lots of love, Debs
I attended a Teenex course for the first time in 1995 in Essex. It, quite simply, changed my life.
I was always one of the ‘good girls’, but had increasingly been hanging around with a ‘less savoury’ crowd. Without Teenex, I dread to think what I would have become. It gave me a community of like-minded peers, a voice and a cause.
The connections I made with the other participants were strong and enduring; I’m still friends with many of them to this day. I grew in confidence, knowing that I didn’t have to engage in antisocial or dangerous behaviour to ‘fit in’. It prepared me for being exposed to drugs on a regular basis at college and university, whilst armed with facts and information to, not only ensure that I remained drug free, but that I was also able to inform and educate others around me.
I became a youth facilitator and attended several more camps over the following 3-4 years, each time being empowered to know that I had a choice; I could choose to put my faith in myself, my abilities and my personality in order to make friends and be successful, rather than following the herd and relying on illicit substances.
Teenex helped to form me into the person I am today. I am someone who does not rely on any chemical or natural substance to feel good about myself, cope with difficult situations or socialise with others. As a new mother, I only hope that my children will be able to experience something similar in their lifetimes.
I hope these words can be of use, but please contact me if I can be of further assistance. I now live in Perth, Western Australia, so please bear in mind that there is currently a 7 hour time difference!
Love and gratitude to you both. Tracy.
Hi Peter, I would like for you to pass on my thanks and heartfelt respect to all the current and past members. Teenex really turned my life around – I wasn’t the nicest person at school and had quite a few issues, but with the help of my friends and the new friends I made in Teenex, it allowed me to go from a rather nasty person to a married man with two children and some really good friends who I still keep in touch with after nearly twenty years. Warm Fuzzies are always going to be with us, as is my Teenex shirt with all the messages on it.
Keep up the good work. Paul.
- Neil Scott
The messages here – from boys as well as girls – are lovely. I remember that first camp which Paul attended. -… it was my first too. He could easily have taken another path, as could many others along the way, but the experience of Teenex came at just the right time for him. The impact of each camp is huge, as I know from supervising several camps myself … I don’t think anyone will ever really know how huge is the impact – it is impossible to measure.
I say this not just as a Teenex participant, but in my professional role these days as the Head of School Improvement Services for a major urban area in the Midlands of England. Neil.
Teenex did have a great impact on our lives. I personally have never touched drugs, not once, and all drugs are banned from any of my parties and from my flat. Anyone found with any drugs on them gets one warning to leave, then gets evicted by me if they choose not to listen.
Hope all is well – take care! Scott.
I have happy memories of the years I spent with TEENEX (around 20 + years ago!). At the time it was so much fun, I loved the games, singing and dancing. I made lots of friends and was proud to become a peer facilitator. On reflection, it gave me so much more than I could have realised. It enabled me to build confidence in myself, allowed me to travel within the UK and to America. It gave me an understanding of people, how they lived, and life in general. It kept me “on track” and gave me knowledge of dangers around me.
At 18, with the confidence I gained, I was able to join the Royal Air Force and train as a nurse. I believe the “experience” of being involved with the programme has stayed with me. It led to my keen interest in public health and health promotion. I now have a job as a Health Visitor and as part of this I am required to identify vulnerable families and help them to express their needs and offer support to them. In my job, just like Teenex, it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the work undertaken especially as this is often not known until decades later. I hope that by writing this I have shown it was a huge success for me.
I now have a 11 year old and would love him to have been able to have the same experience of Teenex.
A Massive THANK YOU to everyone who believed in the programme and that made the whole experience magical. An extra special and long overdue THANK YOU to Ann and Peter Sending you all lots of warm fuzzys. Jane.
- Dave (PRIDE Prevention group, USA)
It is so good to hear from you. There is no way I could ever forget about the two of you, or my trips to England to experience Teenex camps. In fact, I still speak of them on a regular basis and remember them fondly. I miss it.
I really can’t say how much the Teenex courses helped me through really bad experiences, and made me the man I am now … confident, assertive, strong-minded – all qualities I wouldn’t have accumulated otherwise … not forgetting being able to steer clear of drugs ! I do hope you’re keeping up the fantastic work. Even you change just one person’s life, as you have mine – although I’m sure you touch thousands! Love, David.
Peter Stoker is the Director of the NDPA – National Drug Prevention Alliance (UK) which has served as an international consultancy and campaigner for more than 30 years. Senior NDPA Advisor Ann Stoker is the author of ‘Teenex’. Both Peter and Ann are also experienced Education Advisors, as well as Treatment Counsellors and Coordinators. They are both authors of several papers and have been speakers at many international conferences. Peter is the author of a text book: ‘Drug Prevention – Just say NOW’.
- A PHOTO GALLERY OF TEENEX EVENTS
Strike a pose !!
Show a pose !!
- MAY THE TEENEX FORCE BE WITH US!
A light-hearted verse for
Teenex e.V. (by Peter Stoker)
We fly in the Starship ‘Teenex’
Through galaxies far and wide.
Our mission is drug prevention,
And we follow our mission with pride.
We take great strength from knowing
That we serve a fine and noble cause.
We don’t seek fame or fortune,
We work with never a pause.
Do we know everything? Oh, no!
And oh, yes – there is a limit to our powers!
The best we can do is ‘do the best we can’,
And deliver that best, throughout each day’s long hours.
Sometimes we wonder who will join us in our struggle –
Sometimes we get frustrated, sometimes we just despair,
But good days outweigh bad days, and we soon rebuild our muscle –
Refreshed by knowing our goals are honest, just and fair.
Our goals? To give our children something better than today,
To help them fulfil their potential – and do so healthily.
Avoiding the negatives that get in their way,
And always to do so, living life that is drug-free!
Live long and prosper
May the force be with you!