Rebecca is from Bangor and is going into her second year of the Queen’s University Social Work program. She works as a Youth Support Worker, delivering programs and workshops to young people ages 11-18 who live in rural areas. She has also been involved with voluntary organizations that support children and families and also individuals with additional needs. Rebecca feels passionate about working directly with people in need, while also tackling prejudices and stigma that can be barriers to their wellness. Rebecca spends some of her free time as a Ju Jitsu instructor and also enjoys hiking in the Mourne mountains in Northern Ireland.


Niamh is from Belfast (the largest city in the North, and second largest on the island of Ireland) Her experience of volunteering in local youth projects motivated her to study social work at Queen’s, where she just completed her second year. “I am keen to learn how social workers can best support service users and their families,” she says, adding that she is also very interested to learn how services in Portland differ from the services that are offered in her local community. In her spare time, Niamh enjoys listening to music, spending time with her extended family and doing a lot of walking. (A helpful tip for folks flummoxed by Irish names: Niamh's lovely name is pronounced "Neve" as in Eve with an N. Well, sort of. Maybe it is a bit more complex for Americans, along lines of "nia-ev." Take a stab at it and she will help!)


Amy is from Belfast and works for a charity called The Welcome Organisation that supports those who are vulnerable and at risk of homelessness, substance misuse, criminal involvement and other challenges. It emphasizes a harm-reduction model with a “high tolerance and low threshold” for clients. It has currently opened Northern Ireland’s first Homeless Health Hub treats patients on a street outreach basis and providing a base where individuals can seek medical advice from the drop-in hub. “I am really interested in working with mothers and expectant mothers who are managing addictions,” says Amy. “Opioid addiction and homelessness is currently on the rise in Northern Ireland, so I am eager to observe how CODA assists their clients.” She is going into her second year of the Queen’s program.


Catherine is from Belfast and is the mother of four children and grandmother of two. She was raised during a time of violent conflict in Northern Ireland, and is keenly interested in the relationship between trauma, addiction and mental illness. Catherine started working in community education with marginalized communities in the 1990s which led to work with Stella Maris, the only wet hostel in Northern Ireland, and then with Family Homeless Services. Catherine's experience of supporting people with this client group inspired her to return to university to become a social worker. She looks forward to learning new approaches for working with vulnerable adults. Catherine is interested in current affairs and philosophy. She also enjoys the gym, meeting up with friends, and spending time with her children.


James is from Belfast and will be entering his second year of the Social Work program at Queen’s University. He has volunteered with clients who have learning disabilities and mental health challenges and currently works for Inspire, a regional mental health charity supporting individuals living with mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. He has a keen interest in combatting substance use disorders and human trafficking and would like to be part of efforts that target both problems. He is hoping to work abroad as well as at home in the future. He adds that he is keen to learn about the differences between how services are provided in the US system versus that of a National Health model.


Kim is from Belfast and will be moving into her second year of the Queen’s Social Work program. She has experience working with individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism, supporting them as they develop employment skills, and helping them to secure and maintain voluntary or paid work. Kim is looking forward to learning more about services for these populations in the US. She currently works as a support worker in a setting for people with disabilities. In her free time, Kim enjoys swimming, cycling, and camping trips.


Astra is from Whiteabbey and will begin her second year of her Queen’s Social Work degree. She has worked with clients with substance use disorders and is committed to working in programs that treat and support the individual and their specific needs. She is particularly interested in programs that work with individuals who are misusing prescription medications. Astra is keen to experience addiction-support services in Portland to enhance her understanding of the societal factors that have led to the opioid epidemic. Outside the social work setting, Astra is an instructor for the Army Cadet Force and spends much of her free time doing arts and crafts with her two small children.


Rosie works in a supported-living service based in Belfast. She supports the well-being of adults with learning difficulties and mental health challenges. The service users she supports have recently transitioned, or in the process of transitioning from long-term institutional care to a supported living environment. Rosie is eager to visit treatment programs at CODA in order to add to her practical experience and her studies. She is passionate about social justice and advocating on behalf of vulnerable individuals who face many barriers and prejudices. She is also a qualified reflexologist providing therapeutic relief to individuals.