29 October 1998 Edition

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Alive and Kicking in Glasgow


New research in Scotland showing that children as young as nine are being offered drugs and media reports this week of an 11-year-old boy in possesion of £500 worth of heroin in his schoolbag, will no doubt make one man even more determined to his efforts to educate youngsters in the dangers of drug abuse.

That man is David Bryce, founder and director of Calton Athletic Recovery Group in Glasgow.

What began 13 years ago as a football team and social club in Glasgow's East End to give recovering addicts support and the ability to stay clean, has become a registeed charity funded by Greater Glasgow Health Board and Glasgow City Council, with a success rate of 72% in getting addicts clean, and staying clean.

In 1985, Davy Bryce, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, who got himself off heroin, recognised that it was back in the community that addicts faced the battle to stay clean. With that in mind, Calton Athletic Football Club was born.

It took another six long years before it was possible to get funding to establish a recovery programme from a centrepoint. 1991 seen that dream realised when Jimmy Boyi, from Edinburgh's Gateway Exchange put up the money for a premises for the group. He had seen the good work they had been doing and up until then Davy had been helping addicts from his own home.

What began as a three roomed premises in Glasgow's London Road, has now become a larger centre in Dixon Street in the City Centre.

No longer just a football team, Calton Athletic offers not only a very succesful day recovery programme but a practical aftercare programme. And now thanks to a unique partnership with Scotland's biggest selling newspaper the Daily Record, recovering addicts who are ready to face normal life again,can, as part of the aftercare programme, become vendors for the newspaper.

Alongside these programmes are the Drugs Prevention School Project, the Drug Prevention Soccer Sevens for Under 11's, who boast Scotland's own Ally McCoist as the League's biggest fan, the Under 18's Prevention in Action, of whom World Boxing Champion Prince Naseem is an honorary member and the Calton Athletic Women's Group.

But perhaps their biggest claims to fame, apart from the great work they've done for addicts in Glasgow, is having a film, Alive and Kicking, made about them and acting as advisers for the box office smash Trainspotting. The stars of Alive and Kicking, Cracker star Robbie Coltrane and funny man Lenny Henry are now patrons of Calton are both particularly impressed with the groups work with the schools.

``Their work in schools is totally inspiring'' says Robbie Coltrane ``Clearly this is a marvellous way of persuading kids not to use drugs. For pupils to hear it from people who've been to hell and back must have a dramatic effect''.

So what exactly does the Drugs Prevention Schools Project do? Quite simply, the team give honest experience from a credible source - their own. No shock tactics, no moralising, just honesty. Which is the key to change for every addict.

But like any other group trying to do good work within communities, staying afloat, financially, never proves easy. Particularly when you're a thorn in the side of the Statutory authorities, as Davy Bryce believes Calton Athletic always has been, mainly because they have constanly refused to toe the `party' line of giving addicts drugs on prescription, otherwise known as Methadone alias Harm Reduction.

Calton have always and will always refuse to compromise their stance of clients doing cold turkey and then staying completely drug free.

While Calton Athletic have over the past 13 years won widespread acclaim for the work they've done, there is, as always, the doubters and critics.

Despite their sucess rate, the critisim appears to be a failure to accept that a group of reformed addicts who've been to hell and found their own way back, drug free, maybe, just maybe, know better than the ``professionals''.


Youth action on drug awareness

Four young people from the Beechmount area in West Belfast; Kerri McIlvenna, Danielle Maguire, Sinead Wylie and John Devine spoke to AP/RN about the recent seminar on Drugs and Alcohol Awareness jointly organised by them and the Falls Community Council (FCC) and the Beechmount Community Project. The evening seminar was attended by 100 young people from local schools and youth clubs from across West Belfast in Corpus Christi College last Wednesday 21 October.

Following on from completing a 9 week course on drug and alcohol awareness course run by the FCC, the four decided that the issues surrounding drug use were too important to walk away from and initiated, from start to finish, the evening of Quizzes, workshops and a buffet for their peers.

The group told AP/RN that ``working as a group'' had been an important aspect of the course and seminar as well as realising that many of the issues around drug and alcohol misuse ``couldn't be tackled on their own''.

Their main concerns were that drugs should be ``taken more seriously'' and that people need to ``pull together'' in organising ``community responses''. The group also raised the issue of the need for more resources, in order to facilitate more youth club activities.

The FCC also runs a range of Open College Network accredited drugs awareness courses for young people, parents and community workers.

Sean Devine, the FCC's shadow youth coordinator said ``this is part of a bigger step forward for other young people. It is about these young people standing up in their communities and will have a knock on effect as they become peer educators and spread out in the community.''

Devine also said another key issue raised by the young group was the need for them to educate adults.

The group also said, ``adults need to know about drugs and what to look for and be part of a wider effort to make ``drug dealers more aware of what drugs are actually doing to people in the community''.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1