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Limavady students win prestigious Princes Trust award for 'Walk and Talk' initiative

21 February 2023
Limavady and Denis 2 copy JPG

Nine students from North West Regional College have been named as the winner of an award from The Prince’s Trust after setting up a week-long initiative with a local charity to get people talking about mental health and suicide.

Learning valuable teamwork skills along the way, the group have all gone onto succeed in education and work.

The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards recognise young people who have succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life, and had a positive impact on their local community. The group scooped the Dell Technologies Community Impact Award which recognises the contribution that a group of young people have made to their local community.

Prior to joining the Prince’s Trust Team programme at North West Regional College (NWRC) Limavady, many of the group were disengaged with education, and unsure of what to do with their life. The experiences of the group were complex and diverse, one hadn’t attended school since the age of 13, while another’s family were refugees who had fled war in Afghanistan to come to Northern Ireland. Throughout their time on Team, they recognised that there was something very special when they all worked together and that they weren't so different from one another after all.

One topic that the group had a common interest in was mental health, from learning to manage a mental health condition to having additional learning needs. Some had suffered from bullying and all of them had struggled to feel like they belonged. Many had also been touched by the effects of suicide, which soon led to the launch of "Walk and Talk".

After learning that Limavady has one of the highest rates of suicide in the UK, the group reached out to local charity, Limavady Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide (LIPS).

The group decided to launch “Walk and Talk”: a week-long campaign about mental health, where locals were encouraged to take the opportunity to walk and talk with a friend, family member, colleague or someone from their community, in the hope of lending support to one another.

The team also put together a series of videos and released a new one on each day of the Walk and Talk week. The videos featured both the Team members and people from the local community, talking about their own experiences of mental health. The group hoped that by featuring a range of voices, from a 96-year-old man to the local football team, they could help break down the stigma around mental health.

Team leader, Denis McLaughlin said, “The “Walk and Talk” week really pushed this group out of their comfort zone. Having to appear on camera and interview others was a big step. It was a chance for Team members to see that they were not alone, and that we all have our struggles. They grew in confidence, knowledge and became advocates for speaking out about mental health.”

At the end of the 12-week programme, every member of the group has since moved on into employment or further education at college.

Jack, one of the group members said, “We conducted interviews with a number of organisations for our videos, including members of the Limavady Football Club. It was inspiring to see men opening up about their mental health struggles. I learned so much from this project, including that just walking and talking really can make a difference.”

On winning the Dell Technologies Community Impact Award, Jack said: “Winning the Community Impact Award is something we never expected would happen – it’s amazing! We’re really proud of the way we worked together and hope that we left a lasting impact on our community too.”

TK Maxx and Homesense (TJX Europe) have been partners of The Prince’s Trust since 2013 and are one of The Trust’s largest delivery partners of the Get into Retail programme. This is a two to six week course that develops young people’s skills in the retail sector and supports them into positive outcomes in retail. TJX has also supported the Prince’s Trust Achieve programme since 2016, working with schools across the UK to build the confidence and teamwork skills of young people as they prepare for life after education.

Youth charity The Prince's Trust gives young people the skills and confidence to get their lives on track. Three in four young people helped by The Prince’s Trust move into work, training or education.

If you'd like to try the team programme - it could be the best way to spend 12 weeks of your life. This course helps young people, not currently in work or education, to build on personal development, learn new skills and boost their confidence.

Denis is currently enrolling students for the next programme starting on April 23 - just email or ring 07527389281

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