Success for young people who took in new holistic way of accessing education and learning

HEAL students pictured after receiving their awards at the Guildhall on Friday afternoon. Pictured with Martin Healy, Director and Des Boyle (tutor) are students Stephen Kerr, Lee Taylor, Ferdia McKenna, Lauren Watson, Claire Nixon, Ryan O'Connor and Shannon Walton. DER2715MC075
HEAL students pictured after receiving their awards at the Guildhall on Friday afternoon. Pictured with Martin Healy, Director and Des Boyle (tutor) are students Stephen Kerr, Lee Taylor, Ferdia McKenna, Lauren Watson, Claire Nixon, Ryan O'Connor and Shannon Walton. DER2715MC075

Young people from across the North West have graduated from a lifeskills programme designed to support those who have found themselves out of the education loop.

The HEAL project (Holistic Education and Lifeskills) has the vision of “inclusion for all.”

Martin Healy revealed since January of this year more than 50 young people have engaged with the project in various ways.

“Some of the young people have been with us short term but others came the first day and are still with us,” he said.

The range of people taking part in the HEAL project varies from those with social issues, emotional difficulties, disabilities and homelessness.

“We are here today to celebrate the success of the project,” said Martin.

“Some of the young people who took part have told us they are missing it already and it has only been finished for one week.

“There is a massive need for this type of provision. We created a holistic model which meets the needs of young people.

“We are not about bringing forward education in an old fashioned way.

“Our vision is inclusion for all. If this kind of provision is bought in correctly it will work.”

The HEAL project has a varied curriculum which mixes academia with manual skills.

Young people who took part have access to classes in English, Maths, numeracy, driving theory and ICT.

There are also a range of therapeutic classes which include cook it classes, golf classes and guitar lessons.

Young people can also access team work programmes in which they can engage with projects run by the Prince’s Trust, The Latin American Street Children’s programme and car maintenance classes.

Martin explained that one of the young people who joined the HEAL project hadn’t been out of the house in 18 months but has just completed his GCSE maths and English in just three months.

On Friday the participants received their certificates at the Guildhall, including students who had taken part in every single course.

One of the participants Lee told the assembled crowd at the Guildhall on Friday that the HEAL project had changed his life.

Lee said he would have sat in the house “doing nothing” but that joined HEAL gave him a second chance.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he said, “but now I have more confidence and I’m more outspoken.”

Ryan O’Connor from Limavady said he started the course in January but had to stop going for a while when he needed surgery.

He revealed how he’s now been accepted on to a film course in September which he hopes to complete as well as attending more classes with HEAL.

“I would like to thank all the people at HEAL,” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be without it. I’m now looking ahead to the future.”

Dessie Boyle from HEAL said that the project was different because of its approach.

“Many of us were brought up in an education system that had a mug and jug approach,” he said.

“Holistic learning is all about learning through doing. This is an experiential process which has a reflective dimension.”

The HEAL project was initially funded by DEL; however the group are currently looking for funding to restart the project come September.