For 41 years, Eldred Tellis has been helping drug addicts on the streets to recover from addiction (VIDEO)

For 41 years, Eldred Tellis has been helping drug addicts on the streets to recover from addiction (VIDEO)

Pooja PatelUpdated: Monday, July 01, 2024, 12:41 PM IST
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Eldred Tellis, founder and executive director, Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust |

Eldred Tellis of Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust has been passionately and diligently helping drug addicts languishing on the streets of Mumbai to set them on a path to recovery.

Bhargava Krishna, adman, writer and filmmaker

Bhargava Krishna, adman, writer and filmmaker |

Andheri resident Eldred Tellis (64) was all of 15 when he got hooked on narcotics. He suffered from the repercussions of drug abuse for eight years, after which he took the brave and painful step of quitting completely. “In 1983, when I decided to quit and  asked for help, I realised that people were struggling to offer help as in the early 80s, rehabilitation was sort of a trial and error situation,” said Tellis.

Having found his calling in his recovery, Tellis started helping other drug addicts. “I realised that no one in Mumbai was taking care of the addicts languishing on the streets — they were completely neglected. That's when I decided to start Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust in 1995,” he said. Tellis had a promising job with a European company when he decided to pursue the cause full-time.

Tellis talking to a few people on the streets about the harms of doing drugs

Tellis talking to a few people on the streets about the harms of doing drugs |

The idea behind Sankalp was to reach large numbers of addicts. “I wanted to tell people in need that life can be better than this,” Tellis said. 

Most substance abuse on Mumbai’s streets is of brown sugar, a crude form of heroin, which is injected. “Opioids like brown sugar can be substituted by buprenorphine. So if a person takes sublingual buprenorphine, they don't need to inject an opioid. And in that sense, the syringe is taken away. So even the chance of HIV and blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis C come down drastically,” said Tellis about their  harm reduction work through an Opioid Substitution Therapy.   

Tellis with a few people associated with Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust

Tellis with a few people associated with Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust |

This cuts off withdrawal symptoms, and an addict taking buprenorphine on a daily basis can be functional. “So drug users were now able to earn and take care of some responsibilities. They're also not buying illicit drugs, which means money is not going towards narco-terrorism,” said Tellis. 

 As part of their very well supervised needle exchange programme, Sankalp retrieves used needles, to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. 

These services are available at their two drop-in centres in Jogeshwari and Mumbai Central, where counselling and referrals for rehab are also provided. 

Sankalp’s third centre at Masjid Bunder is for people under 18. “This centre is a safe space for children who are using solvents and other forms of drugs,” said the founder. Youngsters visiting this centre enjoy games, some educational material, or a get-together, a “feel-good factor” according to Tellis. 

For those who require extra care and round-the-clock watch, Sankalp’s residential rehabilitation centre in Vasai admits addicts for a four-month programme. “The benefit is only if they really want to quit and there’s free will; and not forced by the family,” he said.    

Their four-month residential programme is divided into two months of really taking care of themselves and the other two months, they are taught to take care of others. In the initial two months, patients understand their feelings and take stock of their actions. “Most of them feel a lot of hatred, anger, frustration and sadness; so we show them how to channel these emotions. And in the third and the fourth month, we make them in charge of the newcomers, where they have to guide them,” said Tellis. 

They are also made a part of planning things in the kitchen and other activities at the centre, to give them a sense of responsibility. The success rate of Sankalp’s rehabilitation centre is 80 per cent. Step by step, with these and other programmes, Tellis, through Sankalp has transformed more than 25,000 lives in Mumbai, for good.     

Bhargava Krishna, adman, writer and filmmaker who has known Tellis for over four decades, calls his work far-reaching and phenomenal. “Not many people can do the work that he is doing, which involves lifting people from the streets and gutter; and then changing their lives for good. He is a pioneer in his own right who could have had a comfortable and high-paying job. He does all the work quietly, without expecting any fame and helps drug addicts as he strongly feels that this is his true calling,”  he said.  

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