A bloody good idea: How StreetDoctors is teaching young offenders to save lives

This week’s spotlight: all things prison.


Among the many things students learn from StreetDoctors is the fact that there’s no “safe place” on the body to stab someone.
(photo via StreetDoctors on Facebook)

Stabbing a bottle of juice with a pair of scissors is actually a pretty good visual aid to teach someone about blood loss in a knife fight. If you remove the scissors, the juice spurts out. If you lie the bottle down, more liquid stays inside.

This is the type of interactive demonstration that UK-based organization StreetDoctors uses to teach young criminal offenders what to do if they’re involved with or witness to a stabbing or shooting. Every second counts when it comes to stopping blood loss, and young people who are out on the streets are often the first at the scene.

“Some of them will come out with quite horrifying stories about witnessing a violent attack,” says Dr. Charlotte Neary-Bremer, CEO of StreetDoctors, in a recent Student BMJ article.

Instead of preaching non-violence, anti-gang messages to the young offenders who may be deaf to them, StreetDoctors wants the kids to take away two main ideas: apply pressure and call an ambulance.


Interactive models help students learn how to apply pressure.
(photo courtesy of Adrie Mouthaan)

The organization started in 2008 when two medical students, Nick Rhead and Simon Jackson, were teaching first aid to young offenders. They figured out that what the kids really needed to learn wasn’t CPR, but how to deal with blood loss.

“From then on, Nick and Simon started teaching young offenders in Wavertree [near Liverpool] informally—just a few times a year. After a year they thought it would be better to build a team of people… We gradually formalized our teaching and from there it just grew organically,” says Neary-Bremer.

Since then, StreetDoctors has taught more than 1,400 young offenders in six cities around the UK how to survive street violence—and how to help.

Though the impact of this kind of effort is hard to track, the message seems to be getting through to at least some of the youths.

A week after taking the StreetDoctors class, one of Neary-Bremer’s students was out walking with a friend when they were attacked. Thanks to his training, he knew how to apply pressure to the wound, and ended up saving his friend’s life.

Read more about the story behind StreetDoctors in the full Student BMJ article.

With safety and empowerment in mind, what other skills and subjects should we teach young offenders to help deter street violence?

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Girl brightens street, one balloon at a time


Photo via pea green girl.

Recently, I participated in GOOD’s first annual Neighborday. We invited our neighbors over for milkshakes and sat on our lawn and talked with them about everything from what our block used to be like to tips for toddler sleep to how to entertain visiting family.

The turnout was smaller than I’d hoped for, but it was still nice to stop for a moment and focus on the people who lived around me. So when I came across Zoe Green‘s little project of brightening her UK street with balloons and nice notes for one day, I couldn’t help but think, “Yes!”

She writes:

From my perspective, Shelbourne Road is just another long, fairly anonymous Bournemouth street. Nothing really happens here.

Other than the occasional social gathering in the corner shop, we go about our daily routines side by side and yet our paths never seem to overlap. I only really know my next door neighbour Paul and his dog Foo. I don’t know who lives opposite, or two houses down, which really makes for quite a sad state of affairs.

So how can I make a difference? One smile at a time.

I don’t intend to change the world. but I know that if you brighten one person’s day they are highly likely to brighten someone else’s. Happy Street Day took place on Monday 15th April 2013. It was my personal mission to bring some unexpected cheer to my fellow Shelbournians, encouraging them only to stop for a moment and talk to one another.

This project was about inspiring people. So take my ideas and share them with your community.

Go on, spread a little joy.

What are some other ideas to make YOUR street a little bit cheerier?

Join GOOD’s Fix Your Street day on the last Saturday of May. 

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How an Irish nonprofit is helping kids be green

Leprechauns. Frothy mugs of green beer. Four-leaf clovers. Whether you celebrate it or not, these are likely the first images that pop in your head when you think of St. Patrick’s Day. But these universal symbols for the Irish holiday aren’t the only green products Ireland has to offer.


Two boys create a completed circuit in Rediscovery Centre course on green energy.

Green businesses have grown in Ireland over the past few years. From small-scale organic farming programs to larger businesses manufacturing new wind power technology, environmentally sustainable projects in Ireland are both diverse and original.

One nonprofit in particular, Eastern Ireland’s Rediscovery Centre, has geared its environmental efforts towards the next generation of green thinkers by bringing waste reduction and sustainability tools into the classroom by partnering with teachers in schools across the region. Fortunately, the Irish government encourages primary schools teach a certain amount of classes focused on waste reduction and biodiversity through its Green Schools Program.

And it’s anything but dull. With sessions spent constructing terrariums or cooking with a homemade solar ovens, the center’s staff know how to make environmental education captivating for a range of ages. And based on student and teacher surveys that praise their alternative style of education, their method is working.

But it wasn’t always a breeze.

When the Rediscovery Centre first created its education program (it also serves as a store for recycled paint, restored furniture and eco products) in 2006, the staff had a simple framework for its classes—but needed in-class experience to truly understand what its students needed.

“It’s always been easier with the primary schools. They love the hands-on learning style and are willing to learn,” says Tara Singleton, manager of research and education at the organization. “But once the students get older, they’re sometimes too cool for school. They are more stubborn.”


Students learn the ins and outs of recycling with a life-size Chutes and Ladders board game.

So her staff has to modify each lesson by age group, making the topic something both relatable and appealing to the students. The program’s Executive Manager, Sarah Miller, adds that education disparities within an age group can even create issue within a classroom.

“Some schools have engaged in quite comprehensive environmental awareness raising before they book a workshop, whereas others haven’t,” she says. “In order to deal with this we have developed a range of workshop activities and additional teaching aids.”

Working with teachers, who best know how the individual students work in a school setting, tends to be the quickest way to plan a lesson.

“It really depends on the teacher,” Singleton says. “Some are really welcoming to our program, and want to help us make our class work for their students, but others don’t seek us out.”

Which is another battle altogether. How does the staff make their resources attractive to public school teachers?

With classes based solely on these topics, the center has no trouble winning teachers over. For secondary classrooms, however, staff has to work harder to align its classes with topics covered in the school courses.

“We try to pair science and geography lessons up with our classes, but it’s not as simple as with the younger grades,” she says. “There’s less incentive there.”

But by dealing with these obstacles from the get-go, the center has been able to secure its roots in the surrounding community.

“We often get calls from delighted schools that have used our lessons throughout the school year,” says Singleton. “They say ‘look what we’ve done!’ Sure, it’s a hard slog to start up something like, but the interest is there. It’s worth it!”


 Want to learn more about how to engage children in learning about sustainability and the environment? Feel free to contact Tara Singleton at tara@rediscoverycentre.ie and Sarah Miller at sarah@rediscoverycentre.ie.

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