Presentation to HURT’s Youth Forum on receiving their Heroes of Youth Award Certificates!

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ADDICTION charity HURT has this w e e k b e e n celebrating the achievements of its youth volunteers who received certificates recognising their dedication to the cause. HURT was formed in Derry sixteen years ago by Sadie O’Reilly who lost her own son, Tony, to a drug overdose. Ms O’Reilly recognised the need for an addiction treatment centre to help local people suffering the effects of substance abuse. The service started out with two volunteers in a room on great James’ Street and has since grown to sisteen staff who adopt a hollistic approach to treatment based on Clarendon Street and an outreach centre in Strabane. There are addiction advisors, counsellors and a range of complementary therapies such as acupuncture and massage. They treat close to 400 people each year who either walk in off the street or are referred them. The service is entirely free of charge and open to anyone. Support is also offered to the families of sufferers as addiction can often adversely affect the entire household. HURT receives no statutary funding and is relient on Big Lottery Funding – which runs out next year – as well as support from Comic Relief, the Victims and Survivors Service and Sainsbury’s, as it’s local charity of the year. It does a lot of what centre manager, Dessie Kyle called, preventative work which is aimed at educating schools and communities about the dangers of drug/alcohol abuse. The local charity set up a youth forum four years ago to empower young people in the city from the ages of 10-18. They undertake training in courses such as drugs and alcohol awareness, peer mentoring and exploring issues in substance misuse/legal highs. The young volunteers have also designed posters and composed a charity song to raise awareness, as well as taking part in numerous fundraising activities. Mr Kyle said: “To us these young people are as important as any other member of staff. We value their contribution in so many ways. “They often come to us and share their knowledge of what’s going on in the city with other young people, which helps us to do our job better.” Another member of the team, Natasha Howlett, trained in a skills and complementary therapies offered at HURT, and also works cloesly with the youth forum. She said: “They have accomplished lots of things, they have made two films. One was called The real Truth About Drugs And Alcohol which we used as an educatioal tool to show in schools around Derry. “By having local people and local accents there is a greater familiarity for young people watching it which makes it effective for our educational programmes. “Another one was on Fatal Foetal Alcohol Syndrome which we had to localise a bit more, with both proving very effective.” Young people in the city can be portrayed negatively at times, but Dessie and Natasha wished to commend the efforts of HURT’s young volunteers who have shown tremendous dedication and passion throughout their training. Ms Howlett said: “They’re doing a lot of great things and passing on knowledge they have learned at HURT to other young people. “And they have actually used their intervention skills to help people they know.” The youth forum is integral to the work carried out by HURT and its members have been a shining example of everything positive about the youth of Derry. Mr Kyle concluded: “These young people stand in Sainsbury’s with us doing bagpacking, they have climbed Mount Errigle with us, they have done the ‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes’ where they wore high heels from the Guildhall to Sainsbury’s. “They have been key to our success and will continue to be as we look to the future,” he added.