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Welcome Home: Changing Lives

Welcome Home: Changing Lives

From his early childhood experiences in post-war Germany and his immigration to Canada at the age of eighteen with only a few dollars in his pocket, John Volken worked tirelessly in various entry-level jobs to just meet his basic needs.  When he became comfortable with the English language, he turned to furniture sales and built a number of successful businesses during his working career.  Having achieved his financial goals, John remembered his time in an orphanage and his dream to help other people in need.  He searched for areas of social need where he could make a lasting difference and opened a long-term, residential-based addiction treatment facility called Welcome Home.

Also called a life skills opportunity, Welcome Home in Surrey, BC provides a place where its students will change their lives through a recovery program that requires a minimum twenty-four month commitment by the applicants.  “We came here rough, but the program polished us up.”  Not only did they arrive “rough”, but also they had reached rock bottom, often losing their jobs, their families, their self-esteem and their will to live.

Underlying this change is the belief that these young men and women, aged 19 to 34, can and will change their lives to that of sobriety, self-sufficiency and self-worth.  Based on the gospel principles of repentance and renewal, the program helps people who have lost their way through drugs and/or alcohol and the evils that accompany addiction.  While several participants are members of the Church, most are not; however, the Christian values taught are demonstrated in the students’ cooperative spirit, positive attitude and friendly manner towards each other.  Their clean-cut and self-assured appearance brings to mind the scripture in Alma 5: 14, “Have ye experienced a mighty change of heart?”  The students are quite comfortable talking about their journey and their past, and particularly their gratitude for having a second chance.
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The curriculum is intense and treats the symptoms and cause of the addiction, and provides the tools for recovery.  The students are promoted from level to level based on their time in the program and their demonstrated ability to accept more responsibility in their continued progress.

There is little time to stray.  The students work fifty hours a week in a grocery and retail store set up within the academy as a work experience site for them.  They also do volunteer work and attend recreational and cultural events in the community.  Twice a day, the students enthusiastically repeat the academy creed which helps them focus on their commitment to recovery.
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Responding to the oft asked question 'John, why are you undertaking such a task?, Brother Volken explains that we have all been richly blessed and there will come a time when we will be asked to account for how we have used the blessings we have received. It is my desire to report that I did the best I could to help others who had nowhere else to turn.'  He also continues his efforts to assist the very poor, mostly orphans, in their struggle to survive, by giving them a chance to obtain an education and become self-sufficient through “Welcome Home for Children” and “Lift the Children” in Africa.

He stands as an example of his motto that “people can change”--and change they do.

John Volken is a member of the Vancouver British Columbia stake.

John Volken is a member of the Vancouver British Columbia stake.