Benaiah, near Mintlaw, first opened its doors in August 2009 to support females struggling with drug and alcohol problems. Since then the Teen Challenge North East Scotland centre has welcomed 142 hurting women.
At Benaiah – the only residential centre in Scotland that allows mothers to continue living with their children while the parent works on their recovery – women complete a year-long, Christian faith-based programme designed to enable students to become emotionally, physically and spiritually whole.
The programme is made up of a balanced mix of class-based studies, counselling sessions, personal reflection, work duties and recreation time.
The idea for Benaiah was birthed in the mind of Teen Challenge North East Scotland’s area manager, Gordon Cruden, when he was part of a team reaching out to hurting people in Aberdeen.
The organisation had already established men’s centre, Sunnybrae, near Fyvie, in 2003 and in 2005, while chatting to a mum who was caught in addiction, Gordon noticed the picture of a child on the keyring of the woman, who said that the boy was five years-old.
Gordon remarked that the child in the photograph looked younger and the mum explained that the picture was from the last time she had seen her boy; when he had been three. Her son had since been adopted.
Gordon wondered how the woman was ever going to be able to stop taking heroin when she carried the pain and guilt of losing her boy, and decided to explore opening a female residential centre and help stop the vicious cycle through helping women, along with their children.
One woman whose life has been turned around after completing the Teen Challenge programme is Rachel Stephen.
In six short months, Rachel went from successfully managing a hotel to being locked in a prison cell, officially homeless, having lost her job and, most tragically, her son.
Rachel explains that her initial time in Benaiah was tough: “The early days, in particular, were difficult as I had to face the emotions I’d been suppressing and blanking out with alcohol. I was really angry at people and blamed everybody but myself.”
“But then I saw great things happening in the lives of other girls and thought, I want some of that!” Changes started to happen in my own life and I got more and more hope.
“The staff did an amazing job facilitating the relationship between my son and I. They helped me feel I was a Mum again.
“I’ve changed in so many ways. I now no longer walk about heavy and have an appreciation for the small things. I used to always react to things with all guns blazing, whereas now I can take a step back and respond calmly.
“Best of all, things are great between my boy and I. Highlighting how much our relationship has been restored, I remember in Benaiah fighting to just get to a place where I could take him for a walk to the shop for a sweet, with no-one else with us.
“Last year, just the two of us went on holiday to Spain for a week.I am so thankful and just want to be healthy and happy, providing a life for myself and my son.”
Gordon added: “We’re thrilled to be celebrating 10 years of Benaiah. Amazing work is done at the centre to not only see individual women overcome their hurts and addiction issues, but also see mothers truly mothering their children.
“Looking ahead, our vision remains the same; to continue to provide the opportunity for women whose lives have been ravaged by addiction to change, making lives that they and their families are proud of.”