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Ted Clarke Memorial Trust (Portadown Football Club Youth) and Anderson's Pharmacy

Empowering our young people

Ted Clarke Memorial Trust was established in 2013 and works around the areas of community, health & wellbeing, sport and education in collaboration with other key community organisations. The Trust and Anderson’s Pharmacy applied for a Level 2 BCPP grant of £10,000 to work with Portadown Football Club Youth.

The project focused on two groups - teenage boys and teenage girls – with eight weekly sessions planned for each group around health and wellbeing issues. Promoting this project as an integral part of football training encouraged really good participation. Open to all ethnic and religious backgrounds, the Trust worked with coaches who encouraged attendance and promoted the programme. Working in consultation with the teenagers to design the content of the sessions, the Pharmacist, Elizabeth Ruddell, explored the matters relevant to them.

The project focused on issues such as mental health, suicide prevention, alcohol, drug awareness, internet safety and women’s health. On one of the sessions, the PSNI came in to talk to the group about internet safety. The teenagers learnt about important and topical issues such as the dangers of social media, online gaming and cyber bullying. Another session was spent discussing mental health with AWARE NI, such an important topic in today’s society with suicide rates in Northern Ireland higher than ever and with 68% of today’s younger generation feeling under pressure, stressed or depressed.

The Community Pharmacist is in an ideal position to help develop better self esteem and confidence and empower the young people to feel more confident about asking for help. Through the project, the Pharmacist gained more insight into particular issues and needs of the teenagers and learnt what was important to them, both in the context of heath and personally. Some of the challenges were keeping sessions interactive and relevant to a teenage group. Timing is everything when planning a project such as this one, it coincided not only with school exams but also their preparation for the Super Cup! Though we were delighted that the boys made every effort to attend despite conflicting priorities.

The girls enthusiastically (perhaps too enthusiastically) undertook a self defence class while the boys explored the dangers of smoking, vaping, nicotine and alcohol in two of their sessions. They had great fun getting their carbon monoxide levels measured, especially when the Pharmacist’s meter played up and she thought they were all smokers – a test the next week thankfully proved otherwise! When discussing alcohol, the group worked out the unit value for various drinks, the fact that a single bottle of Buckfast contains the adult unit allowance for a full week had an enormous impact on the boys.

One participant told us that he really enjoyed the BCPP sessions saying ‘They really helped me with my diet and also helped with my understanding of my body and how it functions. The knowledge I gained from Elizabeth actually helped me with understanding PE and Biology subjects in school. I found the activities very enjoyable and Elizabeth was so easy to talk to if I had any questions.’ Another participant said ‘The BCPP course delivered by Elizabeth, the Pharmacist, was enjoyed by all of us. It definitely helped us see how we could improve our nutrition and made us more aware of online risks and drug and alcohol abuse. Most importantly, we were able to learn together as a group. I would recommend the course to anyone whether they are involved in sport or not.’

Gemma Donaldson, the ladies’ football coach, suffered from a bad eye infection not long after the course. Thanks to the BCPP programme, she decided to call into the pharmacy and see if they could help. The Pharmacist sent her straight to the GP and what she thought was just a sty turned out to be a very bad infection requiring antibiotics. Without having attended the course, she says she would not have gone to the pharmacy or would have left it a lot longer!

Elizabeth Ruddell, Pharmacist, summing up her BCPP experience said ‘This BCPP project has been a valuable experience and I have really enjoyed engaging with the teenagers who do not often present in the pharmacy. The project opened up to me a whole range of voluntary and community organisations that are out there and I was impressed by the assets that we have in our area.’

I have been encouraged to see several of the participants coming in to ask for advice and help with health issues. They are now seeing Pharmacists as available, approachable and non judgemental – as well as the first port of call for health care and that is excellent for all concerned.

Elizabeth Ruddell, Pharmacist

The course has been an amazing opportunity and experience for both the girls  and the coaches. We gained a great insight on how to look after our health and wellbeing, as well as how to avail of support from our local pharmacies.

Gemma Donaldson, Ladies’ football coach