Divert taking things to art

Lauren McCloskey, Kayla Boyle and Megan McCaughey Robinson

Lauren McCloskey, Kayla Boyle and Megan McCaughey Robinson

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Sadly, the ills of drugs and alcohol are visited upon too many children in Derry every single day.

Divert, a Dove House based organisation, work with children affected by drug and alcohol misuse.

Angie O'Doherty, hidden harm support worker and Erin Rankin. DER4513SL402

Angie O'Doherty, hidden harm support worker and Erin Rankin. DER4513SL402

In recent weeks they have worked with young people and asked them to express their feelings on what has become known as, hidden harm.

The campaign was launched last week and is called ‘Love Your Body’.

The aim of the initiative is to create a piece of art work that reflects the drug and alcohol situation in Derry from the point of view of a young person.

“We worked with seven local secondary and grammar schools for this project,” explained Divert Project co-ordinator, Leona McMenamin.

“We must have spoke to over 1000 young people about the devastation drugs and alcohol can bring but the one message that kept coming back to us was that young people didn’t feel that their voices were being heard when it came to the hidden harm of drugs and alcohol.”

As a result of this commonly held opinion it was decided that the art work would reflect the message of young people not being heard.

A life size man made out of plaster of Paris was made and the young people gave him abnormally large ears to reflect the whole issue of not getting their message across.

Many of the young people made model clay ears and painted them with bright colours too.

“All of the art work and the young people’s sketches and drawings will go on show in all of the different schools.

“We are hoping to have everything finished by the end of November.

“It’s a fantastic project and it’s one that all of the young people involved can be extremely proud of,” added Leona.

Twelve year-old Lauren McCloskey, has been involved with Divert for almost a year. Lauren said she really enjoys working on the ‘Love Your Body’ campaign.

She added that her own situation has improved drastically.

“It’s been a great project to work on,” said Lauren from Moss Park.

“It’s great to be part of something where what we have to say is being taken seriously,” she added.

Angie O’Doherty is a hidden harm support worker with Divert.

Angie is also helping to co-ordinate the ‘Love Your Body’ campaign and she said that one of the best ways of engaging with young people is treating them in a way they don’t regard as authoritative.

“I’ve worked with many young people in my capacity as a hidden harm support worker and 99 per cent of the time all they want is for someone to listen to what they have to say.

“A lot of the time, because of what is going on in the family home, young people feel that no-one is taking them seriously and their voice is not being listened to.

“Whilst this project is all about the ‘Love Your Body’ campaign it’s also important to stress that at Divert, we do a lot of one-to-one work with the young people.

“It’s a pleasure to work with them all and all they really want is someone to listen to them and someone to talk to,” she said.

Meaghan McCaughey-Robinson is 11 years-old and has been involved with Divert for just under a year.

“I love all of the different projects we can do here. Not only is there plenty to keep us busy we have someone amazing to talk to in Angie - she is so supportive.”

Kayla Boyle, is 11 years-old and from Moss Park in Galliagh.

Kayla has been meeting with Divert for the last six months and said it is one of the best things she ever did.

“The ‘Love Your Body’ campaign has been brilliant. We have really been able to express how we feel when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

“I feel that finally, people are starting to listen to young people and take us seriously.

“I love the work we do here and I can’t wait for all of the art work to come to my school so I can show it off,” she laughed.

For more information on the Divert Project telephone 028 7127 3972.