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 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 are also running a Peer Research project to listen to young people's needs within the community.

Time 2 Shine Leader, Jessica Carlyle - OPEN Organisation Development Lead

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.

Peer Research Project - funded by the Ideas Fund

Da Café youth committee, OPEN volunteers and staff have a vision to create a safe space for young people in Lerwick, where they can come together, feel a sense of belonging and ownership.

The project is a youth-led community action research project to develop ideas for a new safe space for young people. The exciting part is that young people will lead and undertake the project, supported by researchers who will offer expertise, knowledge and training.

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

Peer Researchers:

Akira Foster and Shannon Boston are employed part-time by OPEN, VAS to lead the research and consultation with young people in Shetland.

There are a number of ways to participate in the research project and share your views:

Akira and Shannon are currently running focus groups with online, face to face or 1:1, please contact them by email or message the OPEN Project FB page to arrange a suitable time. 18-25 year olds are currently being offered a £10 Tesco voucher to participate, with the meetings lasting no longer than one hour.

Another option is the online survey:

Padlet is an online tool that you can add pictures and comments to our map and describe what you would want in the community – here is the link which people have been using:


We will present the findings to decision makers and will advocate for the ideas to become a reality.

Contact details:

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

OPEN peer researchers can be contacted /

Or message OPEN Project FB page

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.

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

Akira Foster

Peer Researcher

Johan Tait

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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