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Overwhelmingly Positive Experience

WOMEN’STEC is the largest quality provider of training for women in non-traditional skills in Northern Ireland. The organisation supports women into industries where females are underrepresented and uses hands on trade skills as a framework for participants’ personal development.

They are based in the heart of North Belfast and work primarily with women who face significant barriers to training and employment and often those who have experienced some level of crisis in their lives.

In 2018 WOMEN’STEC partnered with Pharmacist Kevin McDevitt of Crossin Chemists, North Belfast and made a successful application for Level 2 BCPP funding. The project aimed to enhance the participants’ perceptions of health, their understanding of the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) and, crucially, what actions they can take to improve their own and their families’ health and wellbeing. The partnership was granted further funding to continue their collaborative delivery into 2019 and 2020.

The ‘Women’s Well-Being’ programme worked to engage women from the local area who were furthest removed from services and education within their communities and, in the context of COVID -19, recruited eight women for this programme delivered via Zoom. The project used a community development approach, allowing the group to shape the project from the outset by identifying issues most pertinent to their health-related needs.

The project focused on the importance of creating a safe and welcoming environment which facilitated communication and allowed participants to feel at ease discussing sensitive personal and health related issues. As a result of the BCPP sessions, the group were better able to self-recognize the issues of greatest concern to them and the Pharmacist had an increased ability to directly address the group’s individualised needs, provide relevant support and onward signposting. There was a general consensus within the group to focus upon understanding mental health, particularly relating to the impact of isolation and poverty. Interactive presentations were sought from support agencies such as AWARE NI and these were very well received.

Lynn Carvill, CEO of WOMEN’STEC, commented that the organisation’s participation in the delivery of the BCPP Women’s Programme over the last couple of years had been an overwhelmingly positive experience for both the organisation and its beneficiaries.

When asked for feedback on her experience of the project, a participant emphasised the confidence Kevin McDevitt’s expertise and knowledge fostered within the group. She went on to say that "the Pharmacist had a great way of letting everyone voice their concerns and answered them with patience and in a way that we could understand. A very worthwhile course and very informative.”

Another participant felt she learnt a great deal during the sessions, asserting that by self-identifying the topics the group were able to ‘dive deep into areas such as gastric health, medication use, side effects and food nutrition etc. "These topics were all very interesting and the tutors kept us engaged throughout. WOMEN’STEC is an invaluable resource in our community and we would not have been able to get such in-depth tailored information anywhere else."

The programme provides a space for women to explore pertinent health and wellbeing issues in a safe space with our local expert Pharmacist, Kevin. You will not be surprised to hear that there is always a waiting list for this programme and I expect demand for this programme to grow as we move to recover from the last year of lockdown, isolation and for many, bereavement and/or trauma.”

Lynn Carvill, CEO, WOMEN’STEC

Everyone had a say on what would be covered so that each individual would get the most benefit from the course. These BCPP projects have been a great help to me and my family especially for social connection during this awful session of isolation. Everyone could learn from the comfort of their own home. The best takeaway for me was being able to ask professionals. This is so invaluable when you have questions needing answered but cannot necessarily get out due to illness or speak to a GP.”

Project Participant

We started our project as we usually do, by asking participants what they wanted from the workshops. Not surprisingly, we started with a session on Covid-19 and the mental impact it is having. Zoom was challenging to start with, particularly in terms of participant feedback but we got the hang of it. Being at home may even have made some more comfortable and more confident to participate.

Kevin McDevitt, Pharmacist