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From the beginning Transformation has had a grass roots culture. It all started in the early 2000's when Mark Berry became aware of the severe amphetamine addiction problem that was plaguing Lao society. At the time he was an English teacher, but that was all to change very soon.
Mark's first personal exposure to the addiction problems in Laos was through their maid. She confided in the Berrys that her son was struggling in addiction to "Yaa Baa." Translated literally, this means "crazy drug." The west knows it as methamphetamine. She didn’t know what to do. The Berry's felt deep compassion, and decided to have her son stay in their personal home in an attempt to help. Loving him with big hearts, but having little experience in how to help someone in recovery, they struggled to make a difference. After several days, he left.
Later a good friend of the Berry's referred another young man struggling with addiction to them. Mark sent the young man to a rehab center in Northern Thailand. This seemed to be more effective, however, soon after the young man returned to Laos, he began using again. Mark ended up sending several others to Thailand, but realized that they were incredibly vulnerable to relapse upon returning to Laos. Something had to be done to make a long term difference.
BEGINNINGS: TRANSFORMATION HOUSE
Filled with compassion, the Berrys invited five of the young men to stay in their personal home upon returning from the Thai rehab. The environment of loving accountability provided a path to continue in recovery. This, however was only a temporary fix. Knowing the deep need for long term accountability, the Berrys opened up Transformation House. Through the generosity of personal friends, the Berrys were able to rent a cheap, broken down Lao house. The house was in need of significant renovation. The previous tenant was a drug dealer and had completely trashed the property. It wasn't beautiful, but it was full of hope and promise! The village head miraculously gave the Berrys permission to open a drug rehab based out of the newly renovated house. This was extraordinary in itself because Lao culture typically views people who struggle with drug use as unredeemable, not worthy of compassion. We think otherwise: all people have priceless worth. This is a core belief that drives our work. We also believe that people are healed and transformed in community, so that’s what we endeavored to provide. The opening of Transformation House in 2006 marked the beginning of something beautiful.
After about three years of operating Transformation House, it became apparent to the leadership team that our growing clientele could be best served by offering both a rehab facility and a halfway house for continued growth after graduation. The Transformation leadership team began looking for a way to open a full rehab facility.
Transformation often received clients from the government rehabilitation center, Somsanga. In January of 2009 Transformation had five prospective clients in Somsanga waiting to enter its program. The need for a separate rehab facility was pressing if Transformation was to provide high quality rehabilitation services for these young men.
An amazing breakthrough occurred when Transformation was able to procure a 4 acre piece of land in Nasorn village, not far from the city. Transformation wasted no time, and began building immediately. Within a 3 month period, Transformation was able to receive receive the 5 new clients to the newly established Transformation Center. This was a direct answer to prayer and was impossible naturally speaking. Transformation did not have the money to purchase the property nor to build the dormitory to house new students. Nevertheless, through miraculous provision, in March of 2009 Transformation Center opened its doors and the previous Transformation House became Revival Half-way House.
Transformation had always operated with local approval on the village level for its facilities, but was still seeking official national government approval. Local officials worked to help Transformation leadership achieve official approval as a rehab facility (something that had never been done by any private entity). Just as Transformation leadership believed they were close to the application being approved, they found out that Lao authorities had denied the application and were to shut down the center. Transformation was granted permission to leave staff on location to maintain the facility temporarily, with the inference that the center would never open again. The leadership team was dismayed. Having their dreams shattered, they didn’t know what to do. After operating for 4 years, in 2013 the center was closed, with no indication of ever opening again.
Holding on to faith that what had been started would be completed, the Transformation leadership team did not lose hope. The vision of freedom for young men in Laos would become a reality in spite of this major setback. On Christmas day of 2015, after 2 long years of faithful waiting and prayer, the dream became a reality. Written approval, stamped and signed by the Department of Drug Control in the Prefecture of Vientiane, was delivered to Mark Berry and Sivixay Phomphaksivanh. Transformation Center was reborn as the first official private rehab in Laos!
Having a deep love and care for Lao families, Transformation leadership is always looking to find better ways to serve. In May of 2019 Transformation opened its Women and Children’s Center in Oudomphone Village. The Women and Children's center is now fully staffed and operating. Our staff reach out not just to women struggling with drug use, but women and children at risk in a wide variety of situations. We strive to empower young women and their families to reach their potential by providing a safe and loving environment, founded in truth.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
Transformation Men’s Center in Nasorn Village continues to help young men on the path to recovery. We currently have capacity for 16 students, with plans to expand in the coming months. In addition, opportunity to open up another Men's center in southern Laos has presented itself. Transformation has already secured land, and is looking to begin building in the near future.
Transformation Women and Children’s Center continues to serve women at risk and their families. It has a capacity for twenty women and children. This serves a felt need in Lao society, as the region is known for the exploitation of young women through human trafficking and drug trade. Transformation Women and Children's Center provides a safe environment where women and their families have space to heal.
Revival Halfway House is operating well, providing employment for graduates, through a successful landscaping business. The halfway house provides continued care and supervision, while granting opportunities for students to develop professionally, gain education, and find the right path forward.
Run by Lao people, for Lao people.