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Peer Support

Peter, on Norfolk Island, standing with a group with four young people, listening to a girl talk to the others.

Peer Ed: Two fabulous Projects

I’ve been involved with lots of very different peer education programmes over lots of years but have never really written about them. So! Thought I would do just that in this blog. Also, I have finally posted on my website some videos of two Projects that I’ve been involved with over the past few years; together with some notes about the Projects. One was in the Blue Mountains and one on Norfolk Island. Very different Projects and very different processes for each of them. Both very exciting and wonderful to be involved with. There are some comments about both Projects below or if you prefer visuals you can skip straight to some videos about the Projects together with further notes about each of the Projects. And an ‘embarrassment/pride’ warning here; one of the Norfolk Island videos, while genuinely delightful and heart-warming (at least for me), is also embarrassingly complimentary to me. And I had nothing to do with the making or editing of the video. Really!

The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains Project was specifically focussed on young people’s use of alcohol and other drugs and my role with the Project was to take peer educators through a threefold process which:

  1. Presented a way of making sense of/understanding substance use
  2. Helped develop and strengthen the considerable existing skills of the PE’s in relation to talking with other young people about substance use in both individual and group situations as well as more ‘organised’ group situations such as classrooms
  3. Helped prepare them also for talking with/presenting at community or parent/carer gatherings.

You can read more about this and take a look at videos which outline the thinking and demonstrate some of the groupwork strategies that we took the young people through, which they in turn might use with groups they will be conducting.

Norfolk Island

Visiting and working on this beautiful island with savvy adults and young people was, in itself a joy. And working on the actual Norfolk Island Project was a unique experience which developed across the waves using the now familiar Zoom and supported by two week-long visits by myself to help students, that is the Peer Educators, put together Projects of all sorts which might impact on young people’s overall wellbeing and mental health with a hoped-for flow on effect of reducing harmful use of alcohol and other drugs. The Peer Educators, all school students from Year 7 through to Year 11, did a brilliantly impressive job of choosing approaches which did exactly this. They worked together in pairs or small groups, all of their choosing. And every project wisely focussed on mental health and wellbeing, rather than offering warnings and information.

One Project used a video of a family member who was an international DJ and portrayed his life struggles, and linked this to the importance of reaching out. Moving and helpful.

A trio of the older Peer Educators put together a fun run; and while a fun run is not in itself a new idea, this one was developed as a family/community event, with people of all ages participating, including myself. The three Peer Educators reasoned that not only do health and physical activity go together but involving young people’s families and the wider community spotlights the old and still very true saying: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. And with the presence of people of all ages, some running, some directing, some selling very good very cheap edibles, and all cheering on the runners, the day was a delightfully successful event. And it is featured in one of the very brief and well put together videos mentioned above.

Another team involved adults and young people in a ‘Just Dance’ event, simply and beautifully put together fun. A playful and uplifting Project.

Other Projects used static approaches like posters being put up at regular intervals in specific well-frequented places with positive messages about health, life, emotions, reaching out…

The Projects the young people put together were positive without being unrealistic, encouraging of young people to take control of their lives, to look to others when they needed help, as we all will at times.

All in all a positive an inspiring Project, and, for me, a real privilege to be invited to be involved.

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