Today’s society changes at a fast pace and it definitely is taking its toll: our environment became very noisy and some basic needs tend to get overheard or overseen in our daily lives. In some families, lack of attention and affection, relationship problems between parents, etc. can provoke that their children end up hanging out with wrong people or they start doing things they really should not.
Change in teenagers’ and young adults’ behavior does not happen overnight, it is usually a slow process and the result of many factors. Although when parents notice that something is not right with their children, it is often too late and they are confronted with problems that most of them cannot handle. In most cases behavior of hard-to-manage teenagers is an answer to their environment and to their life circumstances. Often it is also a ‘cry for help’ that is difficult for parents and relatives to understand or to interpret and it seems impossible to bring back their lifestyles on track without professional help.
Chance Program, a recently launched initiative by Pal Vaskuti, addresses exactly this problem and offers support to Hungarian teenagers, young adults and their families in such difficult situations. The program provides a holistic support that starts in Hungary with consultation and diagnosis of the problem in the presence of family members and the hard-to-manage teenager. Once the child agrees and is willing to change things, he or she has the option to participate in an experience therapy in Sri Lanka as part of a small group, where (s)he is given the time and space as well as the attention to reflect on his or her own life – with special focus to personal life circumstances.
Pal Vaskuti carefully assigns applicant mentees to mentors, who will spend substantial time together to find the root cause of the deviant behavior. Also the group talks and exercises as well as spending time with local monks and Sri Lankan people – some of them lost everything during the Tsunami in 2004 – are life & perspective changing moments for the participants. When mentees go back home after the Sri Lankan experience, further consultation and support sessions take place that include family members, too and it is also an important part of the healing process.
Spending time far away from friends and family is certainly no vacation to the participants but it is their chance to get a grip on their lives and understand how and why the situation has gotten out of control. Usually 5-7 teenagers and young adults travel in a group, accompanied by their personal mentors and by the group leader, Pal Vaskuti, a psychologist with extensive experience in his field. The group has a structured daily life, where working and mingling with the Sri Lankan locals is part of the concept and so is the goal to make participants experience the beauty of untouched nature, to help them getting back to their roots, and to try to have them let go of the heavy pressure and burden from their shoulders.
Besides working with locals and spending time in a modest, but heart-warming environment, this experience helps teenagers and young adults to realize that their personal happiness does not depend on status symbols and other materialistic assets. They are offered help to understand their situation, to trust themselves again so that they can realize that there is a place for them in society.
The program is open mainly to Hungarian teenagers and young adults regardless of the fact whether they live in Hungary or in another country, but foreign nationals can also apply. Obviously not every family can afford such a therapy to help their children, however there are certain options and funds to support individuals who are truly in need. The Chance Program also accepts applications from potential mentors, whose native language is Hungarian and who possibly speak other languages, too. Most of the professional mentors do this mission on a voluntary basis, as they would like to give back to society.
Nowadays, to experience a totally different environment is almost the only way out of a seemingly hopeless situation that teenagers and young adults are in – but with the clear advantage that all this happens without putting them on psychotropic drugs. Getting enough attention, being taken seriously, feeling the reality of having a second chance in life, taking the opportunity to become a contributing part of society usually has amazing results. It is also very comforting that there are experts out there, who go different ways than the mainstream, and try to lend a helping hand to those in need.
In the end we are all products of our environment and all of us react very differently to external influences. Leaving everyday life behind, experiencing something ‘never seen before’ usually puts things into perspective and lets the individual unwind. However, positive results are only possible, if participants really want it, and are ready to change things. In these cases Chance Program provides the supporting framework on this path.
For more information about the program please visit the Chance Program website. For regular updates about their trips and everyday lives, please join their Facebook page. (Both – website and community page – are available only in Hungarian at the moment.)
Source of images: courtesy of Chance Program. Photos by Istvan Karpati and Balint Molnar.