All of the participants in 2014 CODA Social Work Scholars Project are students in the Queen’s University School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work in Belfast, Northern Ireland.


Philippa is from Belfast and is currently studying for a degree in Social Work. She has just finished her second year. “I became interested in Social Work through my employment with Extern – a charitable organization based in the North and South of Ireland. I work in a project known as the Innis Centre which is a Probation Hostel working with high-risk offenders.”


Joanne is from Belfast and has just finished the second year of a three-year Social Work degree. She also holds a Humanities degree from University of Ulster. She and her husband have three sons. “I really believe that sometimes people need a hand or a bit of guidance to help them through the rough patches in their lives that we all experience. I like to do that.”


Kirsty is from the Castlereagh area just outside of Belfast, and has just completed her second year of a Social Work degree. She also holds a degree in Social Psychology and completed a one-year fellowship studying Business at Seton Hill College in Pennsylvania. “I have currently started working in a [government-run] children’s home…I am faced with substance-misuse issues on a daily basis, which provides me with a knowledge base and great interest in substance misuse among adolescents and adults.”


Rachel has studied in the field of health and social work, worked for family and women’s social-services programs, as well as with autistic children. She is now pursuing a Social Work degree and working in a program for homeless people. She has two small children. “Social work for me has always been about supporting people and trying to make a difference in their lives… however since starting the degree I’ve encountered a more global understanding of the work…and that is why I decided that an international experience would be an opportunity of a lifetime for me.”


Claire lives in Bangor, Northern Ireland, and is in her final year of a Social Work degree. She also holds a degree in Criminology. Working in a program for homeless people, she found that the clients had complex needs, and often such needs were not met. “I found a large part of this was due to barriers they faced when working with agencies, for example they found it difficult to advocate for themselves…this led me to pursue a degree in Social Work, so that I might help those who were often excluded from society and services.”


Michelle is from Belfast and is going into her final year of a Social Work degree. “I am a great believer in not just doing things for people but seeing that they have the right tools and support in order to achieve many things. I have a son with Asperger’s Syndrome and have seen that with the right support and opportunities, an individual’s full potential can be achieved.”


Ciaran (pronounced “Kear-in”) is originally from County Derry. He will enter his last year of a Social Work degree program in the fall. Ciaran also holds degrees in Psychology, Criminology and Criminal Justice, and has worked as a teacher in elementary schools and correctional settings. “…Criminal Justice is my main area of interest, and I am really looking forward to learning more about how that overlaps and interacts with substance misuse issues.”


Nina is from County Tyrone and is a research fellow in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s. She completed her PhD in 2012. Her primary area of interest is the perceived and experienced risk associated with the consumption of mephedrone and other Novel Psychoactive Substances. “My interest in research on drug use began in 2007 when…I had access to a small group of ‘recreational’ drug users and used ethnographic methods to explore patterns and experiences of drug use. I continued to follow this cohort for the Master’s and doctoral research and went on to examine risk perception and behavior among individuals with less problematic patterns of drug use.”


Amanda is from Belfast and will begin her final year of a Social Work degree this fall. She works for an organization called Depaul Ireland that provides support and services to homeless people. Depaul provides a range of accommodation and outreach services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including families with complex needs. It also offers accommodation and support in what is locally called a “wet hostel”–housing for individuals with chronic alcohol use with services based on a harm-reduction model. “I am really interested in the women’s residential project that CODA offers, particularly as it provides services to mothers who continue to care for their children whilst undergoing treatment and support. I hope from this experience that I may be able to offer an alternative perspective to services in Northern Ireland, exploring in particular how parents who have experienced substance misuse in the past may be supported to care for their children rather than those children being placed in foster care.”

Project News


The September 2014 session of the Project was a resounding success! The nine students who attended from Queen’s University in Belfast were engaged and engaging. They spent two very busy weeks, touring CODA’s sites and attending presentations by experts in our field. They brought intelligent questions and a strong work ethic to the mix, resulting in a learning experience for their teachers as well.