update as of March 20, 2020
March 20, 2020.
While each Pacia Life location is independently owned and operated, each location that operates under the Pacia Life branding is expected to provide the highest level of service and expertise.
Professionally speaking, if any staff member were struggling, that would never be announced publically and would be considered a human resource issue for that particular location.
However, we are saddened to report that an incident did take place that affected students during the final hours of evacuation due to COVID-19 from Portugal back to the United States on the evening of March 19th and the morning of March 20th. The incident did involve the owner-operator of Help Now in Portugal who also served as the Executive Director for Portugal.
From the beginnings of Pacia Portugal until recently, there has been complete confidence and trust in owner/operator Jorge Venceslau.
He has 100% been a man of passion, professionalism, and strength. At different points in time, employees from other locations have trusted their children in Portugal under Jorge's care. Several educational consultants, GAP year specialists, and professionals have also shared personal and professional experiences with Jorge and have wholly trusted him and sent clients to be under his care.
In March of 2020, some Pacia staff, students and other outside professionals began to notice a change in attitude and thought, indicating that Jorge was struggling at some level.
On the night of March 19th, 2020, when staff and students were preparing to fly home due to emergency travel announcements being announced by both Portugal and the United States that included borders being closed due to COVID-19, Jorge walked into student housing and took three male student passports from the hands of another staff member and demanded money in order for the passports to be released. Once confronted on this issue, Jorge then denied taking the passports stating that other staff lost their passports.
In the early morning hours of March 20th, another Portuguese staff member acting as a friend was able to get the passports returned in time for the students to make their flights. However, Jorge demanded $20,000 Euro in order for the passports to be returned.
Thankfully, all students were able to make their plane flights on time after some work with personal friends, the pleas of parents directly to Jorge, the Portugal police, and the United States Embassy.
Jorge's actions were entirely professionally inappropriate and criminal in nature. Through this situation, additional information has been uncovered that Jorge has been under a lot of personal stress that includes a separation from his significant other of more than a decade, personal financial stress, and perhaps more. It is believed that perhaps seeing staff and students packing up due to the COVID-19 concern and returning to the United States might have triggered a panic response.
To all the students, families, and professionals who have felt trauma from this situation, we can only say that we understand and want to support you in any way we can. While Jorge's actions only added more stress to a worldwide pandemic situation, it is noteworthy that Jorge has had a long history of helping clients and families through his more than 20-year career in the behavioral health industry.
Below is Jorge's standard bio:
Jorge comes to Pacia Life with years of experience, education, and leadership in helping people to overcome addictions and clinical challenges. His real passion is helping young adults find their purpose and meaning in life.
Jorge returned to his hometown of Cascais in 2007 and loves the many outdoor activities like trekking, biking, paragliding, surfing, and horseback riding. Jorge shares with passion the history of Cascais being once a small fishing village with a beautiful history by the sea and the world heritage village of Sintra with its historical monuments.
Jorge states, “What is most important is my work with young adults who are lost in their future, and how the experiential outdoor activities are so important in self-development and finding meaning in life. The greatest gift is in helping young adults to change, and the families finding happiness.”
Jorge’s work in the field of addiction treatment centers has taken him around the world. Some of his favorite experiences took place at the Crossroads Centre on the Caribbean island of Antigua. The Crossroads Centre was founded by music legend Eric Clapton. Jorge’s work takes him to the United Kindom, Brasil, South Africa and of course, in Portugal.
Today, Jorge incorporates daily habits of healthy lifestyles, meditation, gratitude, and acts of service that help him to realize his potential and to share it with others.
My work with families has been a great part of my professional activity and my great professional passion. Family work is critical for families to learn what to do and what not to do. Often, families believe they are helping when in fact, they are only allowing more denial and resistance to continue. In fact, it is just as important for families to do their work as young adults to do theirs.
After finishing his dream of being a professional athlete in football (Futebol in Portuguese or Soccer in the US), Jorge was awarded an academic scholarship by A.T.T. (Association of Treatment of Drug Addiction, IPSS). Following this, he went on to study Admissions Counseling in England in 1996, at the institution Action on Addictions (www.actiononaddiction.org.uk).
After completing his studies, he worked several treatment centres, namely in the Treatment Center Farol II (www.att.org.pt) in Portugal. Then he went to work in the Caribbean for the Crossroads in Antigua Treatment Center (www.crossroadsantigua.org) founded by Mr Eric Clapton.
He was recruited to work in England at Outcome Consulting, working as a consultant at Clouds House (in its day centre in Bourmouth), Brazil and South Africa.
After having known and worked in several treatment centres in different countries, he decided to return to Portugal and to establish a permanent residence once again in 2002.
The experience in making Structured Family Interventions was growing a need so he underwent specialized training in 2003.
When Jorge returned to Portugal he developed projects in the areas of Primary prevention of the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Namely the project Descuta (www.pontodeescuta.info) in 6 schools in the council of Cascais.
The LifeSkills Training® project (www.lifeskillstraining.org), which he implemented at the German School of Lisbon and the Colegio Amor de Deus in Cascais.