• Saul Day

OPEN Peer Education - Shetland

OPEN aims to increase the confidence, skills, and knowledge of at 15+ young adults (recruited volunteers aged 16-25) per year; enabling them to become peer educators, who deliver awareness-raising and harm reduction workshops in schools. The workshops are delivered to every secondary 1-4 student in Shetland; engaging with over 800 young people annually.

The project provides regular one-to-one support for its volunteers. The level of support they require can be significant in dealing with personal issues; such as family and relationships, risky behaviour, as well as identifying their support and training needs.

OPEN plays a vital role in Shetland; as it’s been able to provide ongoing support and training for young adults to become peer educators, so they can develop their confidence, skills, and knowledge, which enables them to design and deliver peer education workshops and activities for others – which no other project is doing in the community.

The training OPEN provides empowers and mobilises its volunteers to create good rapport with school students during the delivery of workshops; allowing them to openly discuss important and sensitive issues in a classroom setting – in a fun and informal manner – where practical participation is key to positive and meaningful discussions in this kind of environment.

What were the benefits?

In relation to the recruitment of our volunteers, we learned that we need to continue pursuing a variety of recruitment drives and initiatives; in order attract young people from different backgrounds. We have now created a new recreuitment drive, working in partnership with locals cafes, to have ‘OPEN UP’ nights, which encourage young people to meet our peer educators in informal, friendly public envirnonments. Each event will look at discussing a particular topic on the night, such as substance misuse or mental health, for example.

From our partnership work with the schools, we have learned that ongoing schools delivery programme has been a great success, and is becoming easier to deliver given we now have an agreed set of workshops for each secondary age. Althought minimal communication is now required in rolling out this ongoing programme within the partnership work, we do still have to encourage the teachers to provide regular and constructive feedback in their post intervention questionaires; to identify what improvements OPEN can make.

OPEN have been able to provide additional training for its volunteers, beyond that of their initial induction training programme, which has greatly helped with the development of the peer educators’ skills, knowledge, and abilities. In particular, the residential training trip to Aberdeen saw a group of 10 volunteers undertake a day’s induction training on peer mentoring.

In surpassing the proejct’s targets this year for activity hours and number of young people the project has engaged with; in order to keep up with the increasing demand for workshops, this required a lot of extra staff hours to accommodate this. This required the project to dip into its reserve funding to cater for the increased number of staff hours.

Feedback from Young People:

  • “Created workshops, started peer mentoring project, OPEN Up events, delivered workshops across all 7 high schools in shetland, delivered a harm reduction workshop to the Shetland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership.”

  • “Great”, “brilliant”, “amazing”, “we’ve made a lot of progress”.

  • “Continue delivering workshops.”

  • “work”, “experience can go on my CV”, “Use Training to compliment my jobs”, “Become a teacher”, “teach others”, “Confidence, friendships, knowledge of issues, safe space, references for work and Uni.”

  • “The world”, “a sense of belonging”, “OPEN is a safe space”, “this is the only place I can socialise and have a laugh and do what I love, everyone has a happy place”, “this is mine”, “I know that the people at OPEN are there to support me”

  • “it’s been fun”, “It’s been a long road but an informative one, and I’ve enjoyed learning with people who have become lifelong friends. I’ve been able to learn about things that interest me.”

  • “It’s been helpful with expanding my knowledge of certain topics”

  • “I’ve had the opportunity to meet a diverse amount of people and make friendships while bettering our local community”

  • “everyone was really welcoming and supportive, it’s like a little family”

  • “it’s really opened my mind to learn and share information I didn’t know before”

  • “been able to get involved in encouraging the future minds of the world to learn about subjects that affect them in a guiding, comforting way”


Created by Catch the Light 2019.


This work is commissioned by YouthLink Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government's Cash Back for Communities scheme.