FACT makes a big difference

Minister for Education John O'Dowd helps to launch the 'Families Achieving Change Together (FACT)' initiative at the Gasyard Centre with the Mayor of Derry Ald. Maurice Devenney, Laura McGuinness, family support worker, and Chloe Casey, St Cecilia's College. (2810PG70)
Minister for Education John O'Dowd helps to launch the 'Families Achieving Change Together (FACT)' initiative at the Gasyard Centre with the Mayor of Derry Ald. Maurice Devenney, Laura McGuinness, family support worker, and Chloe Casey, St Cecilia's College. (2810PG70)

Ahead of the big vote in the National Lottery’s Good Causes Awards, Journal reporter Michael McMonagle looks at some of the projects involved in both the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and Achieving Something Special and the services they provide to local communities in the north west.

FACT is one of the many projects based at the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and is a family support and intervention service for families with young people aged between 11-18 years old in five local post primary schools.

Laura McGuinness from FACT said the group works with families and young people who are experiencing difficulties, either at home or at school, and provides support and encouragement.

The group has four objectives; providing support and learning opportunities for families and young people; supporting the development of positive relationships with the family; providing opportunities to improve family learning; and encouraging families to make the most of their communities.

Laura said FACT works with young people in both home and school settings and helps establish stronger links with local communities. “We understand that everyone can have difficulties in their lives and that is where FACT comes on to offer support and guidance. What we do is help build confidence.

“I work with young people in schools, and their parents, and the wider community, and together we can improve the opportunities and experiences of families and young people,” she said.

One of the local schools involved with FACT is St Peter’s Secondary School and deputy principal Michael Quigley has said it has made a big difference to the boys at the Creggan school.

“We see FACT and Laura as vital members of our school community,” he said. “We sometimes have communication issues with families and Laura helps us to make that connection. Laura is available to speak to parents and see how they are managing and if they need extra support. She offers a service that the school can’t provide and one which enhances the relationships between parents, young people and the school.

“Laura is like a hub connecting the school and the wider community. We have our own pastoral set ups but through FACT we are able to tap into a wider pool of resources and that all helps to improve confidence and ultimately increase pastoral opportunities and academic opportunities,” he said.

Sean Doherty, one of the young people involved in the FACT project, has said it has made a huge difference to his life. “It has definitely improved my confidence. I would have been shy and I was having a few problems at school but since I have been working with Laura and FACT that has all changed. I was introduced to the outdoor gardening project with Triax and was involved in volunteer work over the summer. It has been great,” he said.

As well as helping young people, Laura also works with parents who are experiencing problems. One parent, who did not wish to be named, said: “Working with Laura and FACT has changed my life. I was having problems in my life and I heard about the work of FACT and got in touch and it has given me the support and confidence that I needed to overcome my problems.

“Through FACT I have been away on trips with my family and I am preparing to start voluntary work. It’s great knowing that Laura is there if I need someone to talk to , I couldn’t have done it without her,” the parent said.

Laura encouraged as many people as possible to vote for the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and Achieving Something Special in the National Lottery’s Good Causes Awards.

“It would be amazing if two groups from Derry won their categories,” she said.

To vote for the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum call 08448369702 and to vote for Achieving Something Special call 08448369670/ Votes can also be case online at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards