Helping young people make drug-free choices
More than a third of secondary school pupils have been offered drugs. Hope UK is a Christian charity which works alongside churches to equip them to say no
James* is a youth worker in South London. He was concerned that some of his young people were coming into contact with friends who use drugs, so he invited Hope UK to take their ‘Drugs, Life and You’ life skills course with his group.
He noticed that not only did the group noticeably supplement their existing knowledge, but their attitudes towards each other and themselves altered positively.
James’s youth group is not the only one dealing with this issue. In a survey published in November 2017 about drug use among young people in the UK, more than a third said that they had been offered a drug (including 16 per cent of 11 year olds), and 24 per cent had taken a drug (compared to 15 per cent in 2014). While we hope that our children will not use drugs, we need to recognise that they are likely to be offered a drug, and should be prepared to manage that situation before it happens.
Sadly, they also have to learn how to cope with their friends, who may be among those who choose to use drugs.
Hope UK has been working with churches for more than 160 years to equip young people to make drug-free choices.
The organisation can trace it roots back to the middle of the 19th century when a partnership between an Irish Presbyterian and a young Baptist minister led to the formation of ‘Band of Hope’, an organisation with a vision to protect children from the damaging effects of alcohol. At its height in 1905, the Band of Hope numbered 3.5 million children and adults. Queen Victoria was its Jubilee patron and it was part of the fabric of Victorian society and the Church.
Today, Hope UK works through volunteers and staff, and trains parents, youth and family workers to help children and young people develop the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices. Our volunteers may not have any previous experience, but our accredited training, which includes residential weekend and other learning, helps develop the knowledge and skills they need.
Understanding drugs and what they do, developing peer resistance and decision-making skills are just some of the tools young people need to navigate the many situations they may find themselves in.
'You're going to fail' - why young people turn to drugs
Susan*, a 16-year-old member of Generation Hope, Hope UK’s youth arm, outlined the challenges faced by many in her generation saying:
'As someone who comes from a prestigious school, I know first-hand what it's like to feel hopeless in my generation. During preparation for GCSEs, the teachers in my school had a catchphrase which they used repeatedly: "You're going to fail". Not "you might fail" or "If you don't start working harder, your grades might be low", but "You're GOING to fail."’. …
‘Our generation is constantly told "You're going to fail", not just in our exams, but we will fail to get into university, fail to buy a house, fail to get a job, fail to raise a family right, and the list goes on. I have a personal belief that this is a huge reason why young people sometimes go off the rails in life and end up seeking other methods to feel okay about their existence, such as going out every night to rave and drink and smoke and use drugs; because they're going to fail anyway so, who cares?
'This is where Generation Hope comes in; you should care. … you could raise the future aspirations and hopes of young people today, just by supporting them. … I do believe that giving us hope is probably the most important thing you can do for us.’
Take a different direction
Every week Hope UK’s volunteers and staff interact with children and young people around the UK. Our workers have seen the harm that that saying “yes” to drugs has done in many lives but through programmes such as Drugs Sex and You, Alcohol Free Today, accredited training for youth and family workers, as well as working alongside organisations such as Street Pastors, we hope to show this generation of children and young people that they can take a different direction.
We dream of a world where every child and young person in the UK is equipped to make drug free choices. Jesus said, “The harvest is great but the workers are few” and our experience is not one of a lack of opportunity, but too few volunteers to take the opportunities on offer.
This generation of young people have more opportunities than ever before, but with opportunity comes choice. As parents, church leaders and youth workers it is our responsibility to help our young people take choices that will help them reach their potential and embrace all that life has to offer.
We mustn’t let them down.
To find out more about supporting or supporting Hope UK in its work to equip young people to take drug free decisions please go to www.hopeuk.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 020 7928 0848.
* Names have been changed to protect identities