Aoife was born outside London and grew up in Belfast. She is in her second year of the Queen’s program. (Her name is pronounced “Eefa.”) Her interest in Social Work followed volunteer work she did with children within an agency serving domestic-violence victims. “Learning about international social work is so important, as it allows us to critically reflect on practice and society in Northern Ireland, as well as learn new ways of working with people,” she says. Aoife is a Scout leader and loves hiking and camping in her free time.


Brenda is from Belfast and has finished her first year of the three-year degree program. Providing support for relatives who were elderly or who had health challenges led her to explore Social Work. “It is a caring profession, with many different roles within the field,” she says. “Social Work addresses social change and social justice, and this meant I could advocate for people who were not in the position to do this for themselves.” She spends her free time with family and friends, including her two daughters, a grandson and a granddaughter. She is awaiting another grandchild in September. “In my area there have been a lot of drug-related deaths in recent years,” Brenda says. “Drugs are becoming more readily available on our streets and I fear for the next generations. I am really interested in the work carried out by CODA, and I hope to bring new knowledge back to my own community.”


Ciara is from Derrynoose, which is located on the border with the Republic of Ireland, in County Armagh. (Her name is pronounced “Kira.”) She studied Social and Behavioral Sciences a number of years ago, and returned to school two years ago in the Queen’s School of Sociology, Social Policy, and Social Work. What attracts her to the field is the breadth of knowledge needed for practice, from individual behavior and psychology to the wider political and environmental systems around us. Ciara has traveled a lot, and enjoys skiing, hiking, kayaking and swimming. She is a “keen advocate of internationalism” after taking part in an International Program in India last summer, and she welcomes the chance to study the processes and models of treatment at CODA.


Emma is from Ballynahinch, County Down, Northern Ireland, and has just completed her first year at Queen’s University. Her mother has been a Social Worker for more than 30 years, which led Emma to work in a children’s residential care home early in her working life. “Now that my youngest child is six, I felt it was time I became a qualified social worker and carry on the work I love,” she says. Emma became interested in the CODA Social Work Scholars Project after hearing the 2014 participants talk about how the knowledge they acquired in Portland helped them in their placements. She is an avid reader and animal lover, and enjoys taking in rescue pets.


Rachel is from Belfast, and is in the second year of her degree program at Queens. She received a degree in Applied Psychology previously. She became interested in social work after working as a special-needs classroom assistant and working as a counselor for Childline, a confidential telephone-counseling service. Her interest in CODA came after working as part of a fieldwork team managing cases of children who are either in foster care, residential care or live with their parents but are subject to a Care Order. “This experience opened my eyes to the physical and psychological impact that drug misuse by parents or children has on families and the community. The opportunity to see how CODA supports mothers with drug misuse issues so their children remain in their care will be very relevant to my recent placement experience. ” Rachel is a roller-derby fan and looks forward to watching the sport while in Portland.


Nicola is from Derry/Londonderry. An avid reader, she is pursuing her first university degree. She’s attracted to Social Work for its wide range of settings and opportunities to help members of her wider community. “The areas in which a social worker can assist seem endless, and this intrigues me,” she says. “I really wanted a career in which I could help people become the best they could be.” Nicola is looking forward to gaining new experience at CODA that she can bring home and use to enhance her studies and work.


John is from Belfast and previously studied Health and Social Care. He plans to work in community or youth work, focusing on addiction treatment and other social problems. His interest in CODA is connected to the problem of growing abuse of prescription drugs and so-called “legal highs” in North Belfast. (Legal highs are Novel or New Psychoactive Substances, drugs that stimulate or depress the central nervous system in a way that mimics substances such as marijuana or cocaine, which are banned in Northern Ireland.) He hopes to expand his knowledge in the areas of psychological aspects of addiction and evidence-based treatment on the community level. He is a self-described sports fanatic—soccer, darts and golf.


Johny is from County Tyrone. He is currently finishing his first year in the Social Work degree program, and he also has a degree in Building Surveying. “Through volunteering I gained a keen interest in helping others,” he says. “I have recently started volunteering with a charity called Positive Futures which helps support people with learning difficulties, and this has only further increased my appetite for helping people and making a positive difference in their lives.” Johny enjoys spending his free time doing outdoor activities.

Project News


The participants in the 2015 CODA Social Work Scholars Project got the most out of every minute of their two-week stay: They visited CODA’s sites in Hillsboro, Tigard, Gresham and Portland, learning about residential, outpatient and detoxification services; observing medication-assisted treatment, intakes, patient counseling groups on a wide range of topics and research in progress. They in turn inspired and motivated CODA staff with their intelligent questions and observations. Great work by everyone involved!