Venezuela Anti-Drug Crusader Mario Chirinos Receives 2015 IAS Freedom Medal
In a country that serves as transit point for more than half the illicit drugs bound for Europe and the United States, where kids take their first hit while in first grade, Executive Director of the Venezuela Foundation for a Drug-Free World (La Fundación por un Mundo Libre de Drogas) has ignited a national drug prevention movement and reduced school drug use by 40 percent.
The accomplishments of Mario Chirinos, Executive Director of the Venezuela Foundation for a Drug-Free World, earned him the Freedom Medal of the International Association of Scientologists October 23 at the 31st Anniversary celebration of the IAS in the United Kingdom.
Growing up near the border of Colombia in Maracaibo, Chirinos came face-to-face with the stark realities of the drug trade when two of his cousins became casualties of the drug cartels.
He became an event producer working with Latin American superstars and Chirinos witnessed the prevalence of drug use in every strata of society. The urgency of reversing this crisis impelled him to take on the problem as his personal mission.
He began by taking the Truth About Drugs curriculum to schools in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods in Maracaibo and extended the campaign throughout Venezuela. After reaching more than 1,500 schools with the program, usage plummeted an astonishing 40 percent, earning Chirinos a proclamation from the National Anti-Drug Office of Venezuela, stating: “We recognize The Truth About Drugs for the decrease in drug use.”
He next took the message of the Truth About Drugs to the nation’s airwaves, appearing on radio and television talk shows all over Venezuela, including a single appearance that attracted a quarter million viewers.
Chirinos subsequently brought the initiative to the anti-drug task force of the Maracaibo Police, training officers who then conducted drug education seminars and distributed booklets in high traffic zones. He trained the State Police Crime Prevention Unit and moved up the ranks to the national police responsible for protecting the borders from drug trafficking. And he enlisted Venezuela’s military to join in the campaign.
Ultimately, he brought the entire social infrastructure of the country on board, conducting workshops for Venezuela’s corporate community, enlisting more than 80 partners in a drug-free movement and securing corporate sponsorship to power a perpetual drug education machine.
“Drug consumption has caused the biggest epidemic in my country. Tonight my people are happy thanks to the Truth About Drugs!”
Chirinos’ work has resulted in more than half a million people educated on the Truth About Drugs curriculum, in excess of 250,000 Truth About Drugs booklets distributed and some 4.5 million people reached through TV and radio programs and other media.
A leading voice for a drug-free Venezuela, Chirinos serves today as an advisor to the National Assembly. In that role, he was the prime mover behind a new law mandating drug education in every school across the nation.
“Drug consumption has caused the biggest epidemic in my country,” said Chirinos in accepting this Freedom Medal. “Tonight my people are happy thanks to the Truth About Drugs!”
On behalf of the International Association of Scientologists, Mr. David Miscavige, ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion, presented Chirinos with the IAS Freedom Medal for 2015 at the organization’s annual anniversary celebration. The Freedom Medal is awarded to Scientologists for stellar accomplishments in forwarding the dignity and freedom of all humankind, thus furthering the Church’s greater humanitarian objectives. Mr. Chirinos was joined this year as an IAS Freedom Medal winner by Steve Green of Auckland, New Zealand, and Rohit Sharma of New Delhi, India.
The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The first Church of Scientology was formed in Los Angeles in 1954 and the religion has expanded to more than 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, with millions of members in 167 countries.
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