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28 October 2014
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  Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire : Monday May 19, 2003


Susie El Madawi and her friends at Casa by the Sea
Pupils are sent to reform their behaviour
Boot camp part one

Earlier this year Inside Out met Susie El Madawi, a tearaway teen sent to a Mexican boot camp by her mum.

After 15 months spent in Casa by the Sea, we find out if Susie's behaviour has improved.

Sarah El Madawi was becoming increasingly concerned about her 16 year old daughter's rebellious behaviour. Fearing for Susie's welfare, Sarah made a difficult and life changing decision.

At the cost of £40,000, Sarah enrolled Susie in Casa by the Sea, a behavioural correction centre in Mexico.

Every minute of the day at Casa by the Sea is planned.

Strict study is coupled with physical activity and chores. Good behaviour is rewarded with privileges such as gardening.

Tough love

Susie was brought to Casa under the pretence of a holiday abroad with her mum. Other pupils arrived in a less dignified manner.

Sarah  El Madawi reading a letter
Sarah made a difficult decision, but has no regrets

The school offers an 'escort service'. Security guards accompany the child to the school.

Robbie, a pupil of Casa, was handcuffed and taken in a van to the airport.

"It was probably the most heart wrenching, terrible decision, I had to make in my entire life," says Robbie's mum.

But Robbie has no regrets.

"It kind of felt like they abandoned me at the time," explains Robbie. "But I'm happy they did it though."


Like Robbie, Susie was reluctant to abide by Casa's rules and regulations when she first arrived. But as regimented as the programme might be, it worked for Susie.

"My biggest fear being here was that if I didn't start work on the programme, then I would never see my mum again," says Susie.

Pupils standing around a bonfire
Students who have completed the behaviour programme have a goodbye celebration

"I felt like if I didn't behave and follow the rules, the longer I'd be here."

Fifteen months later and Susie is preparing to return home.

The programme may have been an uphill struggle for her, but emotions run high when it is time to say goodbye to the friends Susie has made.

In a goodbye celebration, students who have completed the behaviour programme, burn symbols of their past lives on a bonfire.

For some it has been a two year battle to reach this point.

Home sweet home

Back home in Halifax, Susie is adjusting well to her new life. Susie has written herself a set of rules which she will abide by to keep her behaviour in check.

Sarah is delighted with her progress.

Susie at her graduation ceremony
Susie graduates from American high school

"I didn't trust her," says Sarah. "Now I trust her implicitly… Susie's taken the initiative, she's been motivated."

It was this new found motivation that helped Susie to graduate American high school while she was at Casa.

Back in Halifax, she begins a new job as a hairdresser.

"As far as my future goes, it's going to be a really good one," says Susie. "I'm not wasting any more time."

For Sarah, the difficult decision she had to make has certainly paid off.

"I really had to think hard about it," says Sarah. "If anybody else was in my situation, I would recommend it in a heart beat."

See also ...

BBC: Parenting teens
BBC: Teens

On the rest of the web
Casa by the Sea
US boot camps

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Audrey Patmore
My husband and I sent our son Martin to Casa. After watching the Susie El Madawi story on television, we knew that we had no other option but to follow suit.

If I had told Martin that he was going, we would never have got him there. He has been there since 6 June 03, and is having good days and bad days, we now get letters from him saying "its not that bad here mum" so things are slowly changing for him.

We don't know how Martin will turn out, but we know that we have given him every opportunity to sort his life out.

I as a mother know how Sarah must have felt because when I watched the programme I felt Sarah was saying exactly what I was feeling.

Its a shame we don't have this kind of facility in the UK. Because all we seem to have are detention centres, or Children homes, which was not the answer for our son.

Our son was getting into drugs, in trouble with the law, he was excluded from school, and he was only 14. The summer hols were approaching and the thought of him loafing the streets, and not listenting to any of our rules, i.e staying out all night with us not knowing his whereabouts was just too frightening for us.

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