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Newlodge Duncairn Health Partnership, Northern Ireland

25 August 2009

One aspect of the Big Lottery Fund’s approach, particularly when it comes to projects affecting young people, is to listen hard to the voices of the young people themselves. We are convinced that applied intelligently, this approach is much more likely to deliver facilities that will connect with the motivations and lifestyles of those people they are seeking to benefit.

But it is not straightforward. Critics claim that some young people don’t “know what’s good for them”. Others cannot comprehend how decisions can be made when young peoples’ life experiences are “so limited” – some may never have left the estate they grew up on.

Today I heard a great illustration from a Healthy Living Centre (HLC) of how they squared this circle to transform the lives of a group of wayward 14-year-old-girls. Identified as a disruptive influence in their community, the HLC asked what they wanted. They said they wanted to learn about beauty. The HLC responded by offering them a chance to learn about the damage smoking and excessive alcohol can do to your skin, the value of regular exercise, and so on.

Six months later they were asked what they wanted again. They opted to learn about sexual health.

Six months on again and every member of the group was in full-time education, training or a job, not the destination any of them would have said they wanted, or expected, before the BIG-funded Healthy Living Centre got involved.

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