Recovering addicts’ movie nights steer others from drugs
By showing movies in communities, the Sunflower cinema team hopes to communicate a simple message: Drugs destroy lives. Most of the volunteers, themselves recovering addicts, can attest to this firsthand.
The outdoor screenings, which regularly attract audiences of over 300, are held at parks, schools, basketball courts and other public spaces throughout Zhongshan, Guangdong province, on weekends.
Part of the city’s anti-drug campaign, the nonprofit Sunflower project was started in September 2014 and has organized about 130 free movie nights.
Volunteers are made up of addicts on the road to recovery. Most have steady incomes and help out part time.
One of the earliest participants, Feng, who spoke on condition of using a pseudonym, said he had been struggling to stay clean and healthy before he joined the program.
“I’d failed more than 30 drug treatments, and my criminal record had become a major obstacle,” he said.
Today, Feng looks and behaves completely differently compared with when he entered the city’s drug assistance program, which aims to help addicts reintegrate with society.
Huang Jingwen, a social worker who helps recovering drug addicts, said: “Feng was indifferent to re-entering society during his first two or three months at the social services center. But a year later, he began gaining confidence thanks to continuous assistance and guidance.”
Feng credits Huang and the other social workers with getting him back on the right path, adding that their selfless support encouraged him to give back to society.
He signed up for the Sunflower project when it was only an idea, making him one of the first four regular team members.
Later, he was appointed the team’s leader.
“I’ve gotten great pleasure and fulfillment from my voluntary work,” Feng said, adding that he shares a close bond with his teammates.
The project initially received financial support from the city, but over the years, companies and chambers of commerce have begun providing funds, too.
The Sunflower team is now completely self-governed, with 25 regular volunteers and stable sponsorship from the private sector, according to Wu Yongguang, the police drug squad officer who initiated the project.
He said the project provides a platform for recovering addicts like Feng who are eager to get more involved in their community and are willing to contribute to society.
The free movie nights are held two to three times a month, with four or five volunteers taking turns to help out.
Volunteers often share their experiences with the audience after the screenings. Their struggles are a warning to others to stay away from drugs, they say.
Feng, who makes a living running a music studio, said when each movie begins, he sits behind the audience to enjoy several hours of inner peace.
“During this time, I feel like a glowworm, shimmering and bringing warmth as the darkness arrives,” he said.