Following the successful Bournemouth University’s visit to Vietnam as part of the Global Festival of Learning Great as highlighted in the Daily Echo, Thanh-Hang Dinha FHSS MSc in Public Health graduate had an article accepted on her research dissertation. Her paper ‘Factors influencing engagement in premarital sex among Vietnamese young adults: a qualitative study’ was published ‘online first’ this week in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine & Health.
The paper highlights the rising trend of sexual engagement among Vietnamese young adults in recent years, and its potential health consequences. In order to prevent such consequences and further promote health, an in-depth understanding of factors influencing young people to have premarital sex would be valuable. The qualitative analysis ‘generated’ six emergent themes: (a) desire as the ‘direct cause’; (b) the facilitators; (c) social changes; (d) media; (e) peer and (f) absence of family. The latter four themes are ‘indirect causes’ that influence through desire and the facilitators. The study concluded that there is a need for a reliable source of information to be tailor-designed to suit young people. Additionally, the stigma of talking about sex needs to be reduced to allow for more open discussions on sex and sexual health.
After completing her MSc at BU Thanh-Hang Dinh (known as Hana to her fellow students) started working at the famous Pasteur Institute Nha Trang in Vietnam.
A couple of years ago, I met Adam (not his real name) at a farm in Dorset. Adam was 14 and had been excluded from mainstream education due to behavioural difficulties and a disruptive home life. He had consequently become involved in regular underage drinking and antisocial behaviour. Adam was being exploited and groomed as a drug runner for a London drug gang infiltrating rural areas. He told me that he had been given a knife by gang members and encouraged to use it to protect himself if necessary against rival gangs or local drug dealers.
The farm where I met him is not a normal farm, but a social one, where the therapeutic use of farming practices and animal assisted therapy is used to provide health, social and educational care services for disadvantaged young people that have become disengaged with mainstream education. Stories such as Adam’s are growing increasingly familiar to staff at the farm he attended, who see other vulnerable young people referred to their service.
Many of the young people living in rural Britain who are being exploited by these gangs are, like Adam, those who are disengaged with mainstream education and are at risk of becoming, or currently are, NEET (not in education, employment or training). There are 808,000 young people (aged 16-24) in the UK who are NEET.
Being NEET has a long-term impact on a young person’s life, leaving them vulnerable to substance misuse, offending behaviour, physical and mental health problems, academic underachievement and reduced employment. These young people are subsequently regarded as a concern to the police, health, education and social care professionals.
Yet current interventions are failing to reduce the number of young people becoming NEET. These interventions typically focus on providing the young person with vocational education, despite the fact that the most common vocational qualifications in the UK have very little or no relevance to the labour market.
Interventions that offer a restorative approach, with therapeutic support and a focus on learning, however, are acknowledged to be more successful.
A green future
Earlier this year, the government launched a 25-year environment plan. The plan acknowledged the importance of connecting children and young people to nature through learning, as well as the benefits of a physical, hands-on experience as a pathway to good health and well-being. The government has pledged £10m to support local strategies which use the natural environment and has further committed to a national expansion of social farming by 2022. This will treble the number of available places to 1.3m per year for children and adults in England.
On social farms, health, social or specialist educational care services for vulnerable people are delivered through structured programmes of farming-related activities. Social farming is established in numerous European countries. Norway currently operates 1,100 social farms, compared to 240 in the UK.
Young people participate in a variety of seasonal farming-related activities, including animal husbandry, crop and vegetable production and woodland management. Social farming has been found to have a positive impact on physical and mental health along with the opportunity to develop transferable skills, personal development, social inclusion and rehabilitation.
When I met Adam, I was in the midst of a research project evaluating whether a year-long farming intervention can prevent disengaged young people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds becoming NEET. Participants typically attend a four-hour session once a week at the farm.
Future roots, the farm I researched, employs a mix of teachers, youth and social workers and therapists. It offers a different model of learning for those struggling in mainstream education. My research demonstrated that the use of the natural environment as a mechanism for change was effective in reducing the risk of becoming NEET.
The young people I followed displayed a significant reduction in self-reported mental health risks and behavioural regulation difficulties; improved social relationships and coping; improved life and work skills; and re-engagement with learning. All of the young people were in employment or training six months after their time at the social farm finished.
Indeed, the social farm was the only place where Adam said he felt safe. He was able to develop a sense of belonging and trust which enabled him to talk about the difficulties he was experiencing in his life. Without the social farm intervention, staff said that Adam would likely have proceeded to harm himself or others. The farmer refers to the changes seen in the young people as a “chrysalis butterfly effect”: the positive transformation seen in these young people as they turn their lives around to look to the future are truly inspiring.
Bournemouth University leads the Kosovo-strand of a major four-year AHRC ‘Global Challenges’ project titled ‘Changing the Story‘. This project aims at supporting the building of inclusive civil societies (CSOs) with, and for, young people in five post-conflict countries. It asks how the arts, heritage, and human rights education can support youth-centred approaches to civil society building in Cambodia, Colombia, Kosovo, Rwanda and South Africa. The Kosovo strand benefits from an established track record of collaboration with University of Prishtina (Co-I) and Stacion: Centre for Contemporary Arts in Prishtina as well as several arts-based civil society organisations in the country. The BU-led strand focuses on formal and informal civic education through the arts in Kosovo, to be explored locally by a Postgraduate Research Assistant, attached to University of Prishtina, through a critical review and proof of concept exercise during the first year. In support, BU is contributing a fully-funded PhD scholarship under the title ‘Imagining New Futures: Engaging Young People Through Participatory Arts in Post-Conflict Kosovo‘, which is currently being advertised.
International collaborative activities commenced last week in collaboration with an internationally-acclaimed CSO partner in Dorset, devoted to developing global youth citizenship through culture and the arts. The award-winning Complete Freedom of Truth project (TCFT), with which BU collaborated already previously, kindly offered a one-week residency to Albert Heta, Director of Stacion: Centre for Contemporary Arts in Prishtina. This residency brought together a group of artists, workshop leaders and young people from across the UK between February 12 and 16 in Bridport. Albert’s visit from Kosovo was funded by the AHRC and facilitated by BU’s new Research Centre ‘Seldom Heard-Voices: Marginalisation and Society Integration’ of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences (FHSS). Together with Albert, some of the Centre’s members also participates in the events organised by TCFT, exchanged experiences and discussed best practice of working with young people of various background through the arts towards social justice. TCFT has a long history of working with young people, internationally, starting in post-conflict Srebrenica in 2008. Based on our observations during one week in Dorset, including of the issues selected as important by the young UK-participants during this period, we are currently reflecting on the extent to, and ways in, which arts-based interventions with a given set of young people in one specific socio-cultural context and its underpinning conceptualisations (such as of empowerment or vulnerability of, and pressures on, young people) can or cannot be transferred to another, such as that in which young people in Kosovo negotiate their aspirations.
Young people working to change perceptions of disability through poetry and performance
A collaboration between the Media School (Dr Caroline Hodges), the School of Health and Social Care (Wendy Cutts & Dr Lee-Ann Fenge) and Victoria Education Centre, Poole.
In February of this year, we were awarded funding from the BU Fusion Fund to begin work on the ‘Seen But Seldom Heard’ project. ‘Seen but Seldom Heard’ is an innovative ‘arts activism’ project through which young people living with a physical disability (aged 14-19 years) can engage in creative activities designed to encourage them to reflect on their lived experiences and to empower them to challenge societal perceptions of disability through poetry and performance. The performance poetry work which has been supported by professional poets, Liv Torc and Jonny Fluffypunk, also offers the group of budding young poets a ‘voice’ to participate in conversations regarding policies and practices which affect them.
The project has so far resulted in a series of co-produced performances including a Paralympics venue in Weymouth as part of the Cultural Olympiad supporting headline performance poet, John Hegley, and The Bridport Open Book Festival, the largest performance poetry event in the country. The performances were an important way to engage with the general public and positively influence perceptions of disability and we hope to stage similar events during 2013. We have also produced a book of the group’s poetry (the sale of which has paid for an additional 2 poetry workshops at the school) and a full-length documentary will be premiered at BU on the afternoon of December 7th as part of Disability History Month.
There have been a number of beneficiaries from the work. First and foremost the young people who have taken part, together with their peer group at Victoria Education Centre. The project has had such a profound impact upon pupils and staff that the school is raising funds for a ‘poet in residence’ to support future performance poetry activity. In direct response to posting a ‘taster’ of the Seen But Seldom Heard documentary on YouTube (attracting 1,500 views to date from as far afield as Australia, the US and South America), we have received emails and comments from others with direct experience of disability, disability activists, educationalists and care providers thanking and encouraging the young poets and the project team for providing aspiration and positive role models.
In the next phase of the project, which we hope to commence as soon as funding is secured, we also plan to develop a ‘live schools tour’ and audio-visual educational package for use in secondary schools and youth clubs to raise awareness amongst young people of what it is like to live with a physical disability. In addition to public engagement and education activity, we are also disseminating the project outcomes and methodology through seminars and conference presentations during 2013 and journal articles.
Funding is available under the Progress 2011 theme. Your proposal must contribute to developing and testing socially innovative approaches to policy priorities in the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Open Method of Coordination on social protection and social inclusion. To be selected under this call, projects should focus on either of the following selected themes, keeping in mind in all cases the gender dimension of the issue:
• Social inclusion of vulnerable groups (such as Roma people, migrants and their descendants, homeless and young people)
• Quality of childcare services (this has great impacts on child well-being, but also on gender equality, poverty in jobless households, employment rates, birth rates and on long term sustainable development by supporting the development of human potential)
• Active and healthy ageing (this depends on various factors, such as life habits, working conditions or urban policies and represents a major condition in order to extend working lives and to reduce social protection expenditures)
• Transition from education to work for the youth (as only a multidimensional policy approach combining actions on the education framework, the labour market, families can be successful)
Deadlines: 15.12.11 and 30.03.12
European Policy Network on the Education of Children and Young People with a Migrant Background: proposals should address the issues raised by the November 2009 Council conclusions on the education of children from a migrant background and stimulate high-level cooperation between Member State policy makers responsible for social inclusion through education, including cooperation between authorities in the countries of origin and host countries. The network should actively stimulate transnational cooperation primarily at governmental level, but also at the level of experts and practitioners. Grants are worth €500,000. Closing date: 14 October 2011.
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