STAR (Self-Transformation and Rehabilitation) at Project Pride is a program developed by Sai Young Adults (YAs) of the Northern California Region of SSSIO-USA and offered at a local residential facility for women with a history of substance use. The STAR program aims to provide a second chance to the women at Project Pride on their path to recovery and transformation. For some women, this means getting a stable job and financial independence. For others, it means reuniting with their kids. While sobriety is the focus, the overall goal is to equip these women with life skills and personal self-confidence to tackle life challenges and gain control over their lives.

A team of 17 YAs began planning for the STAR project in February, each taking on various roles such as content leads, facilitators, individual tutors, and tech support, based on how best they could contribute to the project. The YAs worked with and mentored eleven residents. They held seven weekly 1.5-hour sessions every Monday in May and June. Each session consisted of a large group discussion and then one-on-one tutoring with the residents. The group discussion focused on various personal growth and life skills topics such as Self-Confidence, Stress Management, Budgeting, Job search, Resume Building, and Interview preparation. The topics were chosen based on the women’s responses on an intake form about the areas they needed most help with.

One of the YAs reflected, “Even though it seemed like we were “teaching” the residents, I truly believe we learned so much from the women themselves. The dedication and courage that each of them showed in turning their lives around truly inspired all of us. They were completely committed to the goal of becoming independent and being reunited with their families again. They showed up to the class every week, with bright smiles on their faces and eager to learn. Because of the COVID restrictions at the time, the sessions were held virtually. It was heartwarming to see the residents come together, helping each other out as they logged on.”

Another volunteer, reflected, “Project STAR was a beautiful learning experience for me. Interacting with the women in rehab and understanding their world taught me so much about the painful struggles of others. I was going through my own personal challenges at that time. Instead of being mired in self-pity, it helped put things into perspective and direct my energy and focus to helping others face and get through their own struggles. I will cherish that experience always and plan to become involved in such service in the future.”

Another volunteer remarked, “Apart from learning a few good daily practices to help with self-confidence and stress management, I also received some good pointers about job search, confidence-building, etc. In the interactive sessions with participants, I also learned of different ways to stay positive and helpful during stressful and difficult times.”

At the end of the seven weeks, a graduation ceremony was held for the women to appreciate them for all their efforts. Reflecting on the seven-week journey, one of the residents said, “I love my tutor and learning how to write my resume. I’d like the class to go on forever.” For the YAs, it was truly a bittersweet moment to say good-bye because of the deep bonds they had formed with the women and how much they had been touched by their courage and determination. The experience had truly opened their eyes to the various forms love and courage can take. As they reflected, the YAs were also grateful to Sri Sathya Sai Baba, their mentor and guide for the opportunity to support these women on their path to recovery and transformation.