When Ana Chaparro looks into the eyes of Latinos enslaved by drugs and alcohol, she tries to see Christ, she said.
“When I see them recovering, I feel like it’s a miracle,” said the 41-year-old Ascension Church parishioner.
Chaparro has led volunteers of Prevention and Rescue in Colorado (known as “Prevencion y Rescate” in Spanish) for more than seven years to help youths and adults find new life in Christ and escape the clutches of drug addiction and gangs.
In 2007, she helped launch a chapter of the Los Angeles-based ministry locally that serves 4,300 people annually through a bilingual 12-step program, retreats, parenting classes, youth groups, street outreach and home visitations. There are 30 families involved at its three locations at Ascension Church, St. Anthony of Padua Church and Holy Family Church in Fort Collins, she said.
Chaparro, who grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, will receive the Pastoral Leadership Award for her dedication at the Centro San Juan Diego Gala Oct. 1.
As the regional coordinator, Chaparro organizes five retreats a year and directs its programs to enable families to meet Christ through them.
“They need to have an encounter with God. That’s the first step,” she said. “Most people who have these kinds of problems, they never go to church.”
The programs are designed to reach the addicted on a human and spiritual level. Part of this journey requires reflection about their life experience.
“We believe in the human side, also,” Chaparro explained. “It’s really important because when somebody wants to start rehab they need to think about their life and childhood.”
Reconciliation with God, then with themselves, is necessary for rehabilitation to truly begin.
Involvement with the ministry may begin with a home visit by one of the volunteers. A person is encouraged to return to the Church and join the programs it has available for recovery and healing.
Retreats are usually the first step.
“The focus of these retreats is for persons who have alcohol and drugs and gang problems in their families,” Chaparro said. “We believe the problem is not only for persons who are drinking and doing drugs, it’s for the whole family.”
Group support is offered for family members who can be devastated by a loved-one’s addiction.
Every week volunteers also canvass the streets to share with at-risk youth and the addicted their own testimonies along with an invitation to attend weekly activities.
Chaparro has faced depression herself after her family dealt with addiction. She now uses that experience to empathize with other families.
“In the past, I was depressed,” she said about her family’s trials. “Now we can suffer with these people when they have that kind of addiction.”
She also helps organize youth groups to help teenagers escape gang activity. Chaparro said youths in homes where parents are often absent working long hours or multiple jobs are in most danger.
“Sometimes the youths don’t have communication with their parents,” she said of some homes. “They feel more accepted outside of the home with (gang) members.”
All the programs are aimed to help the addicted and at-risk to know they are children of God and that there is hope.