Youth and Drugs Project

Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers around the world are dedicated to helping the most vulnerable people in local communities, millions of people receiving aid and support each day. While living conditions vary from country to country, threats to human well-being can be similar in different places. Drug abuse is a global threat that puts the lives of many at risk. For young people in particular, early-age substance abuse can seriously damage their health and well-being, as well as that of their family and friends.

Building on the strength and reach of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, project Y.A.D. brings together the expertise from practical work addressing drug addiction, with the motivational force of young volunteers that are dedicated to helping people in need, and the added value of multinational cooperation, in order to tackle the global threat of drug abuse.

Photo: Peer educators of the Iranian Red Crescent conduct training on substance
abuse for other Red Crescent volunteers.

Project Y.A.D. was developed by the Villa Maraini Foundation (Italy), and implemented in partnership with the Uruguayan Red Cross, the Thai Red Cross, the Kenyan Red Cross, the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan, and the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The partnership received funding from Erasmus plus, the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport.

Project activities took place between March 2015 and February 2016, focusing on three main areas:

  1. Capacity building activities for Red Cross and Red Crescent youth volunteers and staff

Five youth volunteers from each partner Red Cross and Red Crescent National Society were invited to an international training course on drug addiction, harm reduction, treatment, and volunteering. This was followed by practical experience in delivering the care and rehabilitation services that are offered by Villa Maraini. By the end of the course, each delegation presented a plan of the activities that would be implemented by their National Society.

  1. Peer education in each partner country conducted by the trained volunteers

The trained volunteers went back to their home countries and delivered training to local youth volunteers. Information sessions were carried out with university and school students, trainee nurses, and scouts. In addition, awareness raising and outreach activities were implemented with drug users, including through sports, street counseling, and testing for HIV, TB, or Hepatitis. In the five participating countries, more than 7,000 young people were involved in local peer education activities.

  1.  Training tools and materials on substance abuse for Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers

During the final meeting dedicated to sharing experiences from the project, volunteers reported and assessed the activities and achievements for each participating country, agreeing on best practices and recommendations to share with a larger audience. Findings were used to develop the "Training manual for Red Cross Red Crescent peer educators on substance abuse".

According to the feedback and impressions of Project Y.A.D participants, the initiative has contributed to increasing information and awareness about drug abuse and its related problems, as well as to improving the capacities (knowledge and skills) of young Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers to disseminate this information among their peers in the community. Most importantly, the project has served as a tool to advocate different attitudes and behaviour towards people who use drugs, promoting a humanitarian approach toward people affected by drug addiction, according to the principles of human rights, respect, anti-stigma and non-discrimination.

The project has confirmed that peer education activities on substance abuse conducted by Red Cross and Red Crescent youth volunteers are a valuable tool for health promotion and the prevention of substance abuse among young people. Thanks to the close community-ties and the positive reputation of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world, Red Cross and Red Crescent peer educators can play a significant role in raising awareness and knowledge about drug abuse and its related problems among their peers. Moreover, they are based placed to advocate a humanitarian approach to drug users as they are inspired and guided by the Fundamental Principles of the International Movement of Red Cross and Red Crescent. Through their work, Red Cross and Red Crescent peer educators can contribute to increasing young people's appreciation of the principles of solidarity, social inclusion and support for the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in society.

Voices of project participants:

"I feel that more rehabilitation centres and methadone clinics should be established in the country", Kenya Red Cross volunteer.

  "After this training, I have changed my mind from 'to cure drug users’ towards ‘to take care of drug users”, Uruguayan Red Cross volunteer.

"The volunteers can now confidently disseminate information, and carry out peer education on drug and substance abuse and prevention in schools, the community and with their peers", Volunteer of the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan).

"I feel proud to be a Red Cross volunteer, because I can help others to reduce the risk of getting infected with HIV or other infectious diseases", Thai Red Cross volunteer/inmate.

"I have always known what I wanted to do, but Villa Maraini showed me HOW best to do it. I feel like all my efforts before the Villa Maraini experience were a waste of energy", Volunteer of the Red Crescent Society of Iran.

Download the YAD Training Manual here.

About the project coordinator:

Villa Maraini Foundation in Rome, Italy, was established by the Italian Red Cross in the 1970's. The foundation has 40 years of hands-on experience in care, rehabilitation, harm reduction and drug abuse prevention. Among many other area of specialisation, the Villa Maraini Foundation has completed a series of European and international projects with financial support from EU programmes such as Erasmus or the Justice Programme. Visit the Villa Maraini Foundation website.

About the EU programme:

Erasmus plus is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sports. The programme offers funding to universities, schools, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and state authorities to promote the mobility of students, young workers and young volunteers throughout the European Union. Project Y.A.D. received an Erasmus grant under Action 2: Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices - Capacity building in the field of youth.