Tuesday, October 20, 2009

GOAL Intern Attends FASD Conference

One drink is one too many if you’re wondering if your unborn child might be effected by your having an alcoholic beverage while pregnant. Speakers from the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research and Training Institute and the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs of the PA Department of Health stressed this point in a seminar on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD: Optimizing Outcomes for Individuals and Families by Recognizing Underlying Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Tailoring Interventions for Success) they held in September. The workshop introduced the term FASD and what is meant by the term, alcohols effects on the developing brain and the need for a correct FASD diagnosis. Also stressed was that one drink is one drink no matter what alcohol it is made from. Hard liquor, beer, wine, one glass of any of them is one drink and any of them are potentially dangerous to the developing child. The need for this seminar became more obvious throughout the day as we were introduced to more and more information regarding the effects of alcohol exposure to unborn children (prenatal exposure).

FASD is the term used to describe a range of effects that can happen to a child with prenatal alcohol exposure. The effects range from mild to severe, may be mental, physical, behavioral with/without learning disabilities, and may be life long. Studies have demonstrated that several areas of the developing brain can be affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. These are areas that deal with learning, memory, fear, emotion, motor activity, communication within the brain itself and processing information, to name but a few. Prenatal alcohol exposure may result in a smaller sized brain as well as smaller stature than other people of the same age. There are characteristic facial features that, like all of the disorders, can vary from apparent to virtually inapparent: a thin upper lip, smooth groove between nose and upper lip (indistinct philtrum) and short eye slits (palpebral fissures). An FASD diagnosis takes into consideration all to the above, growth deficiency, central nervous system abnormalities, characteristic facial features and the mother drinking alcohol with the child in the womb (although this last point is not necessary for diagnosis).

People living with an FASD have many strengths. These include being helpful, determined, friendly, likable, and they can have unique insights. Unfortunately a person with an FASD has difficulty learning and interacting in society so trained professional assistance may be needed throughout life. This is a very expensive proposition with costs estimated at 1 million dollars to raise a child with an FASD to 30 years of age. Often, individuals with an FASD look “normal” and have average or above average intelligence but fail with typical educational approaches. For instance, they’re often verbal, say they know what needs to be done but they don’t follow through. They have trouble following instructions with multiple parts, have trouble recalling information or using it appropriately in a given situation, or misinterpret anothers actions, words or body movements. You can see that these problems could combine and lead to an individual with an FASD thinking they were “stupid” or “inadequate” when compared to their friends. This is not the case, with the proper support people with an FASD can function well, and potentially independently, in life. Proper care benefits the individual, the family and the community so an accurate diagnosis is imperative.

Another thing stressed at the seminar was that frequently a woman doesn’t know she’s pregnant until after the first trimester. If she has had a drink, the damage to the fetus may already have been done. No woman is harming her unborn child on purpose. We as a society need to remember not to condemn her but rather to encourage her not to drink if pregnant and to get the correct diagnosis for the child if the need arises. We need to encourage women of childbearing age to abstain from drinking alcohol if they might get pregnant. Husbands can provide support for their wives by abstaining from alcohol themselves and turning down invitations where alcohol may be served. Friends too can encourage friends in not drinking during, or before, a pregnancy, and by not drinking or not offering alcohol.

There is only one way of having a child with FAS and that is through the mother drinking alcohol while she is pregnant. This spectrum of disorders is entirely preventable and armed with the information that one drink may be one too many I think it’s our duty to spread the word and help eliminate this potentially devastating problem.


A founding member of the International Substance Abuse and Addiction Coalition (ISAAC) Dr. Terry Webb is also one of the founders of GOAL Project. She has not only served on the ISAAC Council of Advisors but also travels to Egypt once a year to teach in their six week English speaking addiction training school called ISAACS. The training school now headed by Dr. Nanis William, is located at the Freedom Center, a drug treatment facility at Wadi Natrun. Dr. Ehab Elkharrat, who now serves as an advisor to GOAL, founded the school along with starting numerous addiction rehabilitation centers in Egypt.

Most of the applicants for the ISAACS cannot afford to pay the full fee or cost of travel, board and lodging and need scholarship aide that Dr. Elkharrat raises internationally. Students selected for this specialized training come from countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Dr. Elkharrat invites professional addiction trainers willing to donate their time and travel to come to Egypt. They are provided free room and board and are lodged at the rehab center with the students* in this desert location so that ISAACS students and their instructors can interact with recovering Egyptian addicts and their family members undergoing treatment at the Center. Upon completion of the core curriculum requirements, ISAACS students return to their countries to start vital prevention and treatment programs. With a certificate of accreditation from the Florida-based NET Institute who then can proceed to apply for US-based addiction certification.; Claudia Varga of the GOAL St. Dimitri Affliate Project and Margaret Oketch of the GOAL SARAH Network Project are both graduates of ISAACS.

When she goes to Egypt, Dr. Webb teaches on 12-step Recovery, Addiction Prevention, Codependence in Family Systems issues, Post-Traumatic Stress, Intervention, and Genograms. This year ISAACS students hailed from Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan, and Egypt. Not only did they acquire knowledge about Codependence, the Intervention process, Post Traumatic Stress and Addiction, each student prepared and presented a personal Genogram and participated in 12-step Recovery Support groups as well as various group therapies effective in treating addicts.

The Freedom Program in Egypt now rehabilitates thousands of Heroin, Alcohol and other drug addicts each year and Narcotics Anonymous groups have mushroomed to sustain recovery. GOAL is privileged to be in a collaborative partnership with ISAACS.

*GOAL is in the process of inviting qualified addiction specialists to train in economically disadvantaged areas in the USA.


Jay Gilmer Esq. is a family man and attorney activist with a passion for helping others. Mr. Gilmer has been involved in various nonprofit organizations that are faith based including but not limited to Faith Works and The Goal Project.

He believes that his faith has been a solid and withstanding pillar on which his many accomplishments have been built. Among those many accomplishments, Mr. Gilmer has most recently obtained a position with The City of Pittsburgh, Pa Initiative to Reduce Crime, also known as (PIRC). Although he doesn’t wear a t-shirt that says “Ask me for advice: I have a heart for helping others,” Jay Gilmer believes that the knowledge he has gained throughout his career and lives are invaluable resources that can be passed on to others.

Jay Gilmer Esq. believes that all the answers you seek in life can be found in the works, and knowledge of others. “Seek and you may find” is an appropriate philosophy that Mr. Gilmer applies to the work he does. Mr. Gilmer invests his time and his life’s work into helping to improve the lives of others through providing education and options to persons whom would have never discovered these resources otherwise.

Ultimately Mr. Gilmer believes that through educating others, he can assist them in achieving their goals. Mr. Gilmer encourages people to ask questions and seek solutions to problems that may impede their aspirations and goals. He takes pride in being an African American attorney because of the example that he sets for the children growing up in some of the urban communities of Pittsburgh, who may not see very many African Americans become attorneys. Mr. Gilmer believes it is also important for him to lead by example. He attributes his accomplishments and current position in life to God.

Mr. Gilmer expresses an enthusiasm to be involved with faith based initiatives because of the moral and common interests that everyone expresses within the organizations for which he is involved. Mr. Gilmer sees the Goal project as a growing and meaningful organization that over the next 10 years will expand and be more capable of reaching more places in the world through our message of recovery hope and learning.

Mr. Gilmer has much admiration for the works and contributions of Goal founder, Terry Webb. With her vision and dedication, Mr. Gilmer believes that Goal has grown and still continues to thrive through her efforts and belief in education and recovery. Mr. Gilmer encourages and is excited about the direction that GOAL is headed. He states that it is important for us to continue to do addition learning and leadership training in Africa because we can go where the governments cannot. Mr. Gilmer stated, “The government cannot love you, but we can” Mr. Gilmer is a attribute not only to the GOAL Project but to those he helps in the local communities as well the world through the Addiction Learning and Leadership work we do.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Membership Survey


As you know, things are movin' and a shakin' at GOAL! In an effort tobetter serve our supporters we have developed a survey.Please take time out to do our, very short survey on how we can a GOALMembership that is most beneficial to you.

Seriously, it will take less than 5 minutes!Here is the link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=KzcVBIirT_2fhip59bOf6hoA_3d_3d


GOAL Project Staff