Co-founders of Hopedealers Worldwide, Pete and Nadine Psareas, are no strangers to the heartache of heroin addiction. Their now 29-year old son is a person in long term recovery from opioid use disorder and they understand the probability of a setback all too well. Their son has struggled with a substance use disorder since he was 15. It led him to jail, to job loss, to alienation with his family. Over the years he has lost several close friends who have overdosed on heroin. Today he has been in recovery for several years but is conscious to the fact, he is still at risk for a setback.
What started as a family’s desperate search for ways to support their son and the thousands of young people struggling with substance use disorder-well beyond medications and traditional counseling, proved to be the springboard to a new and innovative approach to reducing the risk of relapse. The goal is to create that high, the euphoria that some seek through heroin and other substances, through life-changing experiences, reconnection of relationships, a sense of belonging, travel, and volunteerism. With the help of a network of caring adults willing to do whatever it takes to help others stay off drugs and on the road to successful recovery, those with a substance use disorder can find a new joy in life, purpose, a feeling of self-worth and the empowering optimism to know they can beat addiction, feel like they belong, are part of something impactful, and can function successfully once again.
Life leads us all on many different paths and when Nadine and Pete were searching for an alternative therapy, they found it in the most unlikely place: dirty used soft drink bottles cast away on the side of the road in Guatemala. And so began the first of what would be many creative endeavors of Hopedealers Worldwide, leading their first venture into mobilizing young people to volunteer through building a school for the most impoverished children in the world through “The Guatemala Bottle School Project”. The innovative schools are built with “eco-bricks” created through recycled plastic bottles. “Hope is the New Dope”, a program of The Power of Peace Project, combined with Hopedealers Worldwide, offered the opportunity for those in long term recovery and their loved ones to give back to children also in crisis, just of a different nature. In putting others first and changing the world for the positive, they can experience the “natural high” of selfless volunteerism. Each school they participate in is dedicated in memory of those who have lost their lives because of a heroin overdose and other diseases of addiction.
Today people in recovery, past participants and new friends in the program, travel to Guatemala and continue to build more schools through this Voluntourism Program. They are responsible not only for the passion and elbow grease required to help the children’s and their own future, but they are also required to actively help raise the needed money through donations and community to cover the costs of the trip.
*Hope is the NewDope is a TradeMark of Power of Peace Initiative