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Hanin at Brampton Manor School delivering the very first workshop

Ivan Ezquerra Romano is a fourth-year MSci Neuroscience student, and one of the project leaders for the Alcohol and Drug Education Project. He wrote a blog for us about starting the project and the work they do.

Hanin and Ivan are both Bioscience students with an interest in how drugs affect our nervous system as well as the relationship society has with them. Hanin is a third year MPharm Pharmacy student and Ivan is a fourth-year Msci Neuroscience student. The project they are running aims at reducing the short and long-term harms of drugs through education. They believe that the best way to avoid drug-related harms and accidents is by understanding how our body interacts with these substances. And all this can be done in a fun way!

It all began when Ivan founded drugsand.me, an independent drugs harm reduction website (featured on the UCL website), with Pablo and Gabriel. When they started their university studies, they realised that alcohol and drug intake was very high among their peers and people did not know that they were potentially harming themselves. Importantly, there was not a reliable source of information about these topics. After launching the website, it rapidly grew and became popular among young people in the UK and the US.

Hanin and Ivan met a year ago, when drugsand.me was awarded funding from the UCL entrepreneurs society. Hanin is kind of a nerd for teaching. Since her first year at UCL, she has been teaching as a volunteer and she always manages to line up a teaching internship over the summer. When they met for the first time, the idea of teaching at schools about the science of alcohol and drugs sounded like a perfect endeavour for both.

These flyers have concise harm reduction information on the reverse. Ivan made them so students could take home the most important information to know on each drug.

The project has so far been a great success and they are planning to continue next year. This year, Hanin and Ivan had a team of around 10 volunteers from different degrees. Together, they have educated almost 1000 sixth formers on harm reduction. In their workshops, they briefly talk about the science of alcohol and drugs and how they affect our nervous system. However, the most exciting part of the sessions were the activities that they prepared for students. They aimed not only to teach some basic scientific concepts, but also to provide kids with the mental toolkit to be critical on the information they read online.

The interactive section of the workshops was not only more fun for the students, but also for the volunteers and teachers. Thanks to the training the volunteers received, they could easily find the space to safely talk about this controversial topic in a fun way. It was endearing to hear some of the comments and jokes teens made during the sessions.

The project leaders were humbled by teachers’ comments on succeeding to engage their pupils. Hanin, Ivan and the volunteers agree that taking part in this project has been very gratifying. They say that being a volunteer helps you gaining those soft skills that your degree fails to tackle. Hanin says: ‘It is a great way to disconnect from the stressful academic environment and feel that you can actually give something back to society.’  The Alcohol and Drug Education Project encourages you to join them or any volunteering project to keep making an impact on those that need it!

If this blog has interested you in volunteering with The Alcohol and Drug Education Project, then visit their page on our SLP directory, or take a look at our other Student-Led Projects!