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Sharing the learning

The Respect Youth Project was set up in 2012 with the aim of using sport to engage with young people to help create safer, stronger and more respectful communities. The work of Respect has been widely acknowledged as a model of good practice in using sport as a way of addressing social issues in Northern Ireland. The project is run totally by volunteers.

Respect partnered with McCartan’s Pharmacy to apply for Level 2 BCPP funding of £12,000. They planned to work with 10 secondary school young people (male and female) living in neighbourhood renewal areas across Newry city. The aim of this BCPP project was to give young people the skills, knowledge and confidence to act as peer educators by increasing awareness of underlying social conditions that impact health such as poverty, poor housing, isolation, loneliness etc. The programme would also help improve awareness and knowledge of available services and support to help address these issues within local communities. Before the initial outbreak of Covid-19, Respect had carried out several consultations with young people that highlighted worrying concerns with regard to both their mental health and usage of both drugs and alcohol. Now, increased levels of anxiety are also showing in these young adults. Engaging young people in the development and delivery of the content for the 16 weekly sessions was key.

The group members were keen to explore the implications of lockdowns and isolation on mental health and discuss strategies for working through these difficult times. Issues that they planned to address over the 16 sessions were those around mental health, drugs and alcohol and improved physical health. Session delivery would be split between Zoom sessions and face to face sessions.

The young people involved also informed the community pharmacist and the external partners within the programme about the health needs/barriers of young people living in these areas giving them an insight into the real issues. Cuan Mhuire delivered a workshop to the group on the use and misuse of drugs and alcohol, advising on positive strategies and addiction resources for both drugs and alcohol. advising on positive strategies and addiction resources for both drugs and alcohol. The FLARE project provided invaluable information on mental health illnesses, mental health problems and resources available.

The group members had plenty of fun learning about the benefits of exercise where they explored the physical, emotional, mental and social aspects of taking part in sport. They also got to have their blood pressure taken and learnt about the effect exercise can have on their heart. Tasting sessions for different types of fruit were part of the project and helped the members learn about nutrition and the benefits of a healthy diet. During the project, Gemma McCartan, the Pharmacist played a key role in helping the group develop skills that they can use to look after their health and support them to take more responsibility for their health and the choices they make. Gemma signposted the group to credible online health information Apps and websites and warned them of the misinformation circulating from irreputable sites.

Participants were trained as ‘Community Youth Health Champions’ through the BCPP project developing their skills and knowledge around various health issues. The intention of this peer education approach was to make the project more user friendly and less formal so that it would be easier for young people to open up and express concerns they may have for their own physical and mental wellbeing or that of people close to them. These Health Champions would signpost others to available help and support within their community.

Group members involved in the Project will also have opportunities to share their learning with their peers through volunteering opportunities that will be available not only within the work of the Respect Project but also with local community associations and youth groups. As the project progressed, the participants increased their awareness of very important health information and also developed their confidence through a sports leadership qualification. The Pharmacist has built trusting relationships with the young people in the group which made it easier for them to seek help and support with their health (and the health of their families) after the project had ended.

The BCPP programme has been a great success with the young people learning a lot about various health topics and what help and support is available. The sessions were fun based and the group felt very comfortable talking to the pharmacist about any issues they had. We also received positive feedback from parents of those involved - the young people were coming home after sessions and talking about what was covered each night.”

Martin Connell Chairperson, Respect Project

I really enjoyed learning about the different health issues each week. The workshops were good fun and helped me think more about looking after my health.”

Project Participant

The BCPP programme in association with the Respect project has so far proved very successful and enjoyable for all involved. The project has provided the participants with the chance to learn about the benefits of exercise and good nutrition for overall health using interactive games and plenty of fun. The young people have developed a relationship with the Pharmacist and are now aware of what their local pharmacy can do for them regarding health.”

Gemma McCartan, Pharmacist