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Peer Education

“Peer Education” describes a range of initiatives where people of similar ages, backgrounds, culture and/or social status educate each other about a variety of issues.

Support for young people information leaflet:: Support for Young People

OPEN Annual Report 2021/22

What does OPEN do?

Peer Education: OPEN recruits and trains young people aged 16-25 to become 'peer educators'. OPEN's main purpose is to embed peer education across Shetland as a methodology of raising awareness and encouraging positive lifestyle choices - especially on issues concerning substance use, relationships, sexual health, and mental health; whilst promoting harm reduction at every opportunity. OPEN deliver peer education workshops to all S1-S4 students in Shetland, and all young people 12-25 in other settings. We run weekly tuesday night meetings from 6pm-8.30pm to look at training the peer educators, designing and developing workshops to deliver to other young people.

Peer Mentoring: OPEN are now also operating a Peer Mentoring Programme; with the aim to recruit and match mentors (16-25) with mentees (14-21), to facilitate peer-to-peer mentoring sessions for young people who are care experienced and/or in the youth justice system as well as any disadvantaged young people at risk of social isolation or exclusion. OPEN aims to recruit 4-6 young people per year to become mentees, as well as recruiting and training 4-6 peer mentors per year, whom the mentees will be carefully matched with. The aim of this programme is to improve outcomes for participants, and to prevent offending behaviour.

Da Cafe: OPEN runs a weekly space for young people (14-25) in the Olive Tree on Mondays and Thursdays 4pm-6pm. Da Cafe is there to give young people in shetland a space to go, where they dont have to spend money to sit in the warmth and access free wifi. We have completed Peer Research looking into youth spaces within shetland, for more info contact Wayne Leask

Organisation Development: OPEN operates as a project of Voluntary Action Shetland (VAS) and reports to the Board of Directors. A review of VAS in 2021 highlighted the opportunity for sustainable projects to become independent organisations. A natural and exciting progression for OPEN is to research and plan how to become an independent genuinely youth-led charity, managed and coordinated by young people, with appropriate support and training in place to achieve this. The culture and ethos of OPEN is to involve young people in the design, delivery and development of the project. Jess is coordinating the participation and empowerment of young people to lead the organisational development of the project.

Time to shine leader - Alex Tresadern - Youth Information Worker:

Alex is OPEN's new Time to Shine (T2S) Leader supported and funded by The Rank Foundation. Alex's job role is Youth Information Worker with the OPEN Project. Additionally Alex will also be taking a lead with OPEN’s Social media. Our vision going forward is to create a network of support for young people so they are aware of the available help they can get. Whether that be help with support in school/college or help getting access to housing, Mental Health support and everything in between. The goal to sign post to all the available organisations and resources that not all young people are aware that they can use.

If you or any young person has questions or would like sign posting information then please get In touch. Via:


OPEN's Social Media

How the project is delivered

OPEN’s Peer Education is delivered mainly through school workshops; by trained volunteers (aged 16-25 years) engaging with groups of young people. OPEN have a rolling ‘Schools Delivery Programme’ in place with all high schools and junior high schools in Shetland, which sees every workshop assigned to a specific year group; matching the issues most relevant the participants’ age.
OPEN workshops include:

  • OPEN Online
  • OPEN about Drugs
  • OPEN about Alcohol
  • OPEN about Sexual Health
  • OPEN about Positive Relationships
  • OPEN about the Sexual Health Clinic
  • Mentally OPEN
  • OPEN about Grooming
  • OPEN about LGBT+
  • Party Safe

The Peer Mentoring project supports and trains young people aged 16-25 to become peer mentors to in turn, provide support and guidance for 14-21 year olds that are care experienced, criminal justice experienced, or those at risk of exclusion. The Mentors and Mentees are matched together based on sharing similar backgrounds, experiences and interests. The young people build a meaningful and trusting relationship to support the mentee to develop a positive pathway.

Da Café is a weekly drop-in youth space at the Olive Tree, which aims to attract Shetland’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach young people. The OPEN Up nights that taken place across 2019/20 have proven that having a consistent, safe, and welcoming place to meet up during the week has been very successful in attracting and engaging young people who are care-experienced, involved with Criminal Justice, and/or excluded from school, youth clubs, community centres, and venues/facilities such as Mareel and Clickimin.

Peer Research Projects

Funded by the Ideas Fund And Childrens Services, Shetland Islands Council

Professional researchers:

Jennifer Russell, Anderson Solutions, Lead Researcher has 21 years’ experience in consultancy, working for the public and third sectors doing research, evaluation and strategy.

Dr Amy Calder is a qualitative researcher and holds a PhD in Criminology. Amy has worked for YouthLink Scotland for 7 years and leads on using participatory research methods to demonstrate the impact of youth work and support both the sector and young people to develop research skills

Drugs and Alcohol research project

OPEN Peer Researchers, Akira Foster and Shannon Boston are currently working on the Drugs and Alcohol research project. We are gathering data surrounding drugs and alcohol culture with Shetland, to look at why young people may use substances, patterns of use and help for problem use or to avoid problem use. With the aim to gain a deeper understanding what young people feel about these issues and to get a more accurate picture of what the alcohol and drugs culture looks like to young people in Sheltand.

Contact details:

If you would like to find out more or get involved then please contact Una Murray

OPEN peer researchers can be contacted Via Email @ Akira Foster / Shannon Boston / Rachel Wiseman

Or message OPEN Project FB page

Space Project Blog

I Shannon Boston and my long-time friend Akira Foster were successful in securing our job roles in the autumn of 2021 for the OPEN Space Project. The aim of the project at the time was to ask young people if they felt that there was a need for a space for them in Lerwick, taking a lead on community action research so that young people can have an influence changes in their communities that they would want.

We were matched up with professional researchers Amy Calder and Jennifer Russel, us peer researchers started this work with no formal research training, previous education, short courses and professional learning had taught me and Akira a lot but we did start this role with a blank slate of knowledge and hearts full of passion to create change for young people. Amy and Jennifer were our rudders to help us steer course within the project. We worked alongside researchers to set our core questions that we would use in focus groups and interviews. Creating a Miro board online to show our journey coming to core questions and the projects journey. We really did have to let all our questions grow arms and legs before chopping them off and having our final core questions, we never would have got such rich results in our data without Jennifer taking the time to help us. Jennifer also helped us put together a survey which was circulated. Amy has been our Youth Scotland link, sharing innovative ways to report findings that she had done in the past, showing our research team projects she had done in the past and has been invaluable when it comes to consent.

We always had our researchers as a sounding board while we were conducing our research, we found it hard to get the ball rolling with setting up focus groups but young people were keen to be involved for the most part. We did sadly find that some young people had no enthusiasm to share changes they wanted because they didn’t see the point when nothing ever changes, we did however tend to find that even these young people would be involved by the end of session, the young people spit firing ideas to each other and coming up changes they would like to see. We ran interviews during this time with our core questions. All interviews and focus groups were recorded and transcribed by us the peer researchers, we would also write up themes that we felt the young people were coming up with as well as any surprises from what they told us. Me and Akira worked alongside a group of young people called the youth committee which was our main point of contact for any data that we gathered that we had decided a theme on, even with quoted evidence we got the youth committees go ahead before going ahead with parts of the project and providing key influencing the in final reports. The survey was circulated throughout Shetland to gather views and a padlet that young people could add their preferred place for a space to on a map alongside a description, Jennifer was such an amazing asset to us with this. Akira and me were also lucky enough to be invited to present at the public protection committee and got the change to do informal focus groups with the adults using the same core questions, this was so interesting to hear from the public protection committee after months of hearing young people’s views this showed the similarities and gaps in views and opinions between the generations. I’m speeding up the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 but this is the journey that we had been on so far with young people and the Shetland community.

So we are mid way through the spring of 2022, focus groups and interviews have been wrapped up and our survey and padlet has been put throughout the schools and circulated through other youth groups, we have presented at the public protection committee. Next came the analysis. Amy and Jennifer travelled up to Shetland to help with this bit because we had so much information and not a lot of know how when it came to breaking everything down. Our professional researchers came to the rescue during a session with the youth committee where every quote gathered was cut up and put into themes and clustering quotes within our themes, basically coding done without a computer. As peer researchers it was such a great way to learn how to bring the young people into the analysis while also learning on the job how analysis can be done in this method. The youth committee being able to be involved in this step really meant that our young people had been on the journey with us and were able to honour their peer’s views through their brilliant participation and work. Jennifer and Amy stayed the day after to help us figure out how we were going to report back all our findings and helped us plot out our presentation report, we all sat around a table for hours pouring over the hard work of the night before deciding how best to hold onto the power of the young people’s words by making sure our report had Shetlands young peoples voices at the heart of what we spoke about. We had plenty of opportunities to share our presentation to the community in the following months but that’s not what happened next.

We had been curious throughout our work to link in with other youth led networks, we knew about the hot chocolate trust down in Dundee as OPENs young people had linked in with them online on a residential. Our young people were really excited by what hot chocolate were providing and wanted the same, so me and Akira went off to Dundee on our first work trip together (so exciting) to find out what hot chocolate had that we could learn from or implement. But more on that next blog.

The Ideas Fund administer this innovative funding for the British Science Association, provided by the Welcome Trust.

Training OPEN can provide:

Please be aware that all the training provided is done in line with harm reduction methods and are all focused on raising awareness;

  • Drugs Awareness
  • Alcohol Awareness
  • Sexual Health Awareness
  • Positive Relationships Awareness
  • Mental Health Awareness
  • Emergency First Aid
  • Child Exploitation Online Protection (CEOP)
  • Personal Development
  • Leadership

The OPEN team

Una Murray

Una Murray

Project Coordinator

Saul Day

Project Coordinator

Wayne Leask

Mentoring Coordinator / Development Worker

Jess Carlyle

Organisation Development Lead

Shannon Boston

Peer Researcher - Alcohol and Drugs

Akira Foster

Peer Researcher - Alcohol and Drugs

Johan Tait

Youth Worker

Alex Tresadern (Time 2 Shine Leader)

Youth Information Worker

Mariel Leask

Relief Youth Worker

OPEN in Numbers:

April 2021 – March 2022

  • Number of young people volunteering with OPEN: 20
  • OPEN Volunteers have contributed 825 hours to the OPEN project this year!
  • Based on the living wage all our volunteers have contributed £8500 in kind, through their volunteering.
  • 1191 young people have participated in 65 workshops over the year. Of these workshops the young participants recorded that their awarness of the issues raised increase by an average of 73%.
  • Since 2014 OPEN have delivered 518 workshops to 7566 young people! This is an incredible achievement contributing to young people

How You Can Get Involved

Peer Education

OPEN are looking for young people aged 16-25 to become Peer Educators delivering issues based workshops in all high schools across Shetland! Peer Educators will receive induction training and training for each issue/ workshop they are interested in delivering (Online safety, Alcohol, Drugs, Sexual Health, Positive Relationships, Mental Health)

Tuesday Night meetings

OPEN hold weekly volunteer meetings to provide training, create and develop workshops, discuss issues important to young people and engage with strategic partners to ensure that young people’s voices are being listened to.

These meetings happen every Tuesday night from 6pm-8.30pm (term time).

Peer Mentoring

OPEN are looking for young people aged 16-25 that are interested in helping other young people to become Peer Mentors. Our Peer Mentors will meet with young people regularly to listen and encourage them to identify and work towards some personal goals. Peer Mentors would first volunteer within Da Café to engage with young people to build up relationships with other young people.

Da Café Youth Committee

OPEN are looking for young people with a passion for creating and running a space for young people in Lerwick. The youth committee are currently leading on a Peer Research looking into young people’s needs for spaces in Shetland. With this information, OPEN will look to create a space in Lerwick for young people aged 14-25.

OPEN Steering Group

OPEN have set up a steering group looking into turning OPEN into a fully Independent and Youth-led charity. The steering group will be looking at forming a board of young people that will have the authority to make decisions on how OPEN operates and the vision and direction for the project.

Peer Research

If you are interested in having your opinion listened to on various topics, get in touch with us and engage with our Peer Researchers. We will be using all the information gathered to make positive changes for young people in Shetland.

For example, OPEN will use the information gathered on what spaces young people need in Lerwick to work with young people to create a permanent space to meet that need. We are also speaking with the SIC to create more spaces that meet other needs where possible.

Phone: 01595 745074.


Contact us on any of our Socials by following this link: OPEN Project

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