A textile mill owner in Istanbul’s Gaziosmanpaşa district has primarily been employing former drug addicts in his business, in order to help them establish new lives, daily Milliyet reported on Aug. 28.
“If every enterprise were to give a former addict a job, these young people will embrace life once again, and saplings will turn into forests,” says Oktay Öndeş (34), the owner of the textile mill, where 35 people are employed.
Öndeş says he has reached 25 young substance users in the last three years, giving them jobs to reconnect them with the world. One of them is the 31-year-old Mesut, who works with a sewing machine at the mill. Mesut has used all kinds of drugs until two years ago for about five years. His life took a new turn when he met Öndeş on a park bench, lying there, passed out. Öndeş then immediately took Mesut to a hospital, where he was exposed to treatment. Afterwards, Mesut left his circle of friends who were a bad influence on him and started working at Öndeş’s mill.
“I do not even want to remember my former life. Now, I have a very happy life with my wife and child. My advice to those who use this substance is to stop using it. It is a temporary whim. It ruins people’s lives,” Mesut said.
Mesut also indicates that formers addicts have difficulty in finding a job due to employers’ prejudices.
“Thanks to Oktay [Öndeş], I can now earn my own money. He has given me a job. I used to buy drugs with money I found from my family, or this or that. And now I look after my family. However, no one is inclined to offer a job to a former addict, but this is wrong. Those people also have a right to start their lives again. Everyone makes mistakes,” Mesut said.
What initiated Öndeş to help addicts is because his nephew had previously suffered as an addict. Öndeş first helps drug users receive the treatment they need and then offers them jobs, as he believes it is the most critical thing to help an addict get back on their feet. Then, he helps them remove themselves from their former circle of friends, who have been using drugs themselves.
“These young people are a part of our society. A couple of years ago, we found out that my nephew was an addict. While helping him, I met many youth and I began to think of what I could do in my power [to help them]. Then I started to provide jobs for them. Employers, are very distant towards them, just as most of society. I also have a one-year-old son. There is no guarantee he will not use drugs [in the future]. To see happiness in their eyes means the world to me,” Öndeş said.
Öndeş’s sensitivity regarding this issue has drawn the attention of the authorities as well. The district governor of Istanbul’s Avcılar, Hulusi Doğan, has given a placard to Öndeş, honoring him for the help he has given drug addicts.