Helping fight addiction by flying your kite
There is nothing like a bright sky filled with roundies and moonies on Good Friday.
Residents of the Salvation Army’s Harbour Light programme do their part each year, making kites as a fundraiser for the addiction treatment centre.
The men, who asked that we not publish their names, are concerned that the traditional Bermuda kite isn’t as popular as it once was.
“I remember when I was young, it was 15 weeks before Good Friday and there were hundreds of kites in the sky,” said one.
“Today it’s not like it used to be.”
Frankie F agreed.
“It’s so easy to go down the Annex, buy a plastic kite, put some string on it and put it up,” said the recovering heroin addict, who is now a mentor and residential care worker at Harbour Light.
“It’s all about putting those sticks together, stringing it, pasting it.”
Residents at Harbour Light started making kites 14 years ago. According to Mr F, each batch is unique.
“You’ll see a few off-the-wall kites — from miniature kites to roundies; the colours, the designs get more intricate every year. The guys do a great job.”
Because Mr F went through the programme 16 years ago, he’s been able to get a job and has risen to the post of supervisor. It gives the other Harbour Light residents hope, he said.
“Guys that are in-house get to see what clean living is and what they can look forward to in their recovery.
“It gave me my life back. The therapeutic part of the kite-making is just one aspect of being here and the sense of normalcy that guys get.”
One resident who joined because of “misuse of drugs” said the annual fundraiser takes him back to his childhood.
“I used to make kites and sell them around the neighbourhood, so coming here and making kites was right up my alley.”
He said it’s fun sharing skills and techniques with the others.
“That’s the beauty of it. Someone always wants me to help them out, especially when it comes to kites.”
He completed the programme 2½ years ago after 18 months of treatment. Without it, the porter thinks he might never have found work.
“I don’t know where I would have ended up if I hadn’t come here,” he said.
Another resident, Mr T, tried other programmes. Harbour Light has kept him clean for almost two years.
“I would make kites but I wouldn’t put my all into it. I was just doing it to support my habit.
“When I came here it was completely different. It brought the best out of me. Last year I made 46 kites. Ain’t nobody going to break that record.”
Most important is that they carry on the tradition, Mr F said.
“It has to be taught to the younger people because there’s nothing like a Bermuda kite.
“There’s nothing like a roundie on a Good Friday morning. When you look up in the sky and see those kites, all multicoloured and humming, it’s a feeling that just goes with your cod-fish cakes and your buns. We won’t go into the details of my past, but anyone who comes through this facility, this is what it teaches.
“It teaches a whole different life from using drugs ... it’s all about becoming a different person, a productive member of society. You hear the clichés all the time but that’s what it is.”
Life skills counsellor Karla Trott said there’s a lot to be learnt through kite-making. The process enhances many of the coping skills that are taught at the facility.
“Patience — that’s probably the biggest tool,” she said. “The kite making definitely encourages patience, communication skills get enhanced and it’s also about fun. What may have been deemed as fun in an addict’s life, really wasn’t fun.”
Kites start at $25 at Harbour Light, 44 King Street, Hamilton. To order, call 292-2586
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