Village of Hope
Village of Hope is a Christian rehabilitation centre in Estonia, where men with a drug addiction go to to make a change. Many of them find people who care for them for the first time in their lives. People who don't give up on them and believe that they have something to contribute with and that they are loved.
We arrived at Village of Hope in the morning break and joined the men for the second part of their daily teaching. Today they changed the program because of us, and we took turns telling stories, sang together, did drama and prayed.
Viljam Borissenko entered Village of Hope’s program in 2003 and he has come a long way since then. He is now an educated deacon and Executive Manager of Village of Hope. He gave a brief introduction to the class with translation from English to Estonian and then to Russian.
The administration building at Village of Hope. The men in the program build all the buildings themselves with help from a Swedish church that sends people for a week twice a year to help them build.
We got a tour of the place and that had us walking a lot. However most of us were still freezing and definitely not yet used to the colder weather in Estonia. On the right side of the picture there is a man in a red jacket. His name is Erik and he is a graduate from Village of Hope’s program as well as a former student at our school. It was a joy for all who knew him from his time in Denmark to see him again and to hear him talk about his upcoming marriage.
The humble beginnings of Village of Hope from the start up in 2001. Now it is only used as a museum; “so we never forget where all this came from” as Viljam explained to us. It is amazing to see what have happened around the grounds. During the last 14 years it went from this trailer to a whole village.
Outside the two houses the men live in. Note the training equipment by the door – you don’t mess with these men. However the graduates of the program are also some of the kindest people we have ever met.
Inside the living quarters for the men. 7-8 men are living in each small house. For messy students like us it was striking how clean and neat it was everywhere. Throughout the day it was a running joke that they should either send some of the men to our school to teach us some things about discipline, or we should send some students to Village of Hope and see if they could survive the strict life that seemed to flourish in that forest in Estonia.
The sawmill where the men worked every afternoon.
The men at Village of Hope not only made the wood for their own usage bur also sold it to the local people and businesses. It was very clear that this place, and these former addicts, is extremely well liked and respected in their community.
Some years back there was a fire at Village of Hope and the fire truck didn’t make it in time, so the men decided to do something about it and got a fire truck donated. Many men in Village of Hope are now trained fire fighters and Village of Hope has a sub department to the local fire department. In the event that there is a fire nearby, their huge bell rings and they move out.
After the tour we were invited to eat with the men. That day we had soup and a bunch of different crackers and bread as well as very strong coffee. The break was quite short and halfway trough 10 other guests suddenly arrived. The men immediately rose from their seat and stood up eating the rest of their dinner so the guest could sit down. That was a bit of a unusual experience for us, but everyone recovered quickly and got more coffee.
Village of Hope had received a lot of certificates and various honours from the government as well as gifts from people and churches supporting them.
More about Village of Hope
Village of Hope is a Christian rehabilitation center in Estonia. It’s a free program that lasts a year, but you have to want to be there to get in.
Within the first month half of the men who come to the center leave it, because it is hard to change one’s lifestyle. Often these men come back again later though, and they usually finish the program. The main goal of the program is to “help the socially underprivileged and delinquent people, i.e. alcohol and drug addicts, with withdrawal, rehabilitation and return to society.”
The program is built around mornings of teaching and dealing with former lifestyle and patterns, and then afternoons of working with wood at a sawmill led by Village of Hope. Here the men learn what it takes to keep a job, and they also get to use their body and stay outside.
The men live in two houses together, where they share the responsibility of cleaning every evening. They also do devotions together and keep each other accountable.
In general the program is very strict, and it is very tough, especially in the beginning, because a high level of discipline is expected. However it is these expectations many of the men mention as one of the most important aspects of their change and end of addiction.
At Village of Hope many of the men find people who care for them for the first time. People who don’t give up and who expect something from them. People who believe that they have something to contribute with and that they are loved. Here they are a part of a community – one they usually refer to as “family” – who is dependent on them.
If one person doesn’t show up for work it affects everyone – and these are the people you will have dinner with and the ones you will sleep in the same room. For many it is their first meeting with a real and healthy fellowship.
It is a very important thing for Village of Hope that the ones who have been in the program for longer time help those who are newcomers. All the employees are men who have formerly been in the program themselves.
While walking around on the grounds and meeting and eating with the men it became very clear that they really care for each other and they want each other the best. A striking thing was also how open everyone was about their story.
They had no troubles with standing up in front of everyone in the program (as well as twenty young people from Denmark) and telling about their stay in prison and their various addictions.
You could clearly feel the difference between how long people have been in the program. While we were doing the interview with Raiman there was another man in the room. They told us he was new in the program and would be there together with Raiman. During the whole interview he didn’t say anything, but just sat there with a distant look in his eyes.
You looked at him and deeply felt the hopelessness that Raiman had described in his own story. We later found out that the man didn’t speak any English and had just arrived at Village of Hope the same week. He was still very new there and needed all the support he could get, so he was constantly with one of the other men who had been in the program longer.
Once we left Village of Hope we were very quiet. Of all the things we experienced on our week long trip the few hours together with the men at Village of Hope set the biggest mark of them all.
We had seen, in front of our own eyes, how a loving community came together around healing and Christ brought hope to people who had lost all hope a long time ago.
We would recommend anyone going to Estonia to see if they can get to see the remarkable work going on at Village of Hope.