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 Review 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.

Emotional Wellbeing and Resilience Project (EWR) Shetland Islands Council: There are 2 EWR Workers aged 16-25 employed by Voluntary Action Shetland and supported by the OPEN Project to work on the EW&R Project. OPEN provide support and training to increase the EW&R Workers’ skills, confidence and knowledge, and improve participation and engagement approaches in the EW&R Project. The EW&R Workers carry out research and consultation with young people in the community and represent the findings at strategic and other levels through the EW&R Project and improvement teams.

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

OPEN’s Peer Mentoring takes place at Market House, Lerwick, which allows OPEN’s volunteers, who are trained mentors, to provide peer-to-peer mentoring support for care-experienced and/or young people engaging with Criminal Justice, in partnership with SIC Children and Families Social Work, Criminal Justice Social Work, and Shetland’s Who Cares? Scotland advocate.

OPEN will work with The Emotional Wellbeing and Resilience Project Steering Group, so that young people and adults can contribute towards the development of the project, with young people being recognised at a strategic level; in developing services to meet their needs.

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

OPEN in Numbers:

Of the 1,278 participants from 80 workshops in 2019-20, their awareness of the issues raised increased by an average of 81%. Since 2013, the project has delivered 466 workshops to over 6,000 young people. This has had an invaluable impact on young people’s abilities to make informed decisions around their health and wellbeing in Shetland.

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

OPEN in Numbers:

July 2018 – Jan 2019

  • Number of volunteers who are delivering/shadowing workshops: 11
  • OPEN peer educators and young people involved in the Project have completed 364 hours towards their Saltire Awards in the last six months through workshops, training, OPEN meetings and OPEN Up nights and planning meetings.
  • Workshop participants’ understanding and knowledge of the topics discussed increased on average by 82%.
  • 721 young people have participated in workshops over the past 6 months, which saw the project deliver 50 workshops during this period.

How You Can Get Involved

OPEN meetings are every Tuesday evening at Market House, during school term times, between 6pm and 8.30pm, to provide support and training to the existing volunteers, as well planning and developing workshops.

If you’re aged between 16-25, and interested in volunteering, then please pop along some night or get in touch for more info about our range of opportunities:

Phone: 01595 745074. Facebook: OPEN Peer Education Project

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