Project Y.A.D. – A Red Cross Red Crescent approach to Youth and Drugs

Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers around the world are dedicated to help the most vulnerable people in local communities. Millions of people receive aid and support every day. Living conditions may vary from country to country, however, threats to human well-being may be the same in many places. Drug abuse is a global threat that puts the lives of many at risk, and especially young people take damage from early age substance abuse, with serious consequences for their own health and well-being, equally for family and friends. Project Y.A.D. brings together the expertise from practical work with drug addiction, the outreach and the strength of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, the motivation and the force of young volunteers dedicated to help people in need, and the added value of multinational cooperation for tackling the global threat of drug abuse.

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Project Y.A.D. was developed by Villa Maraini Foundation (Italy), and implemented in partnership with Uruguay Red Cross, Thai Red Cross, Kenya Red Cross, Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan, and Red Crescent Society 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, oriented towards three project components:

(1) Capacity building activities for youth volunteers and workers from the partner National Societies

Five youth volunteers from each partner National Society were invited to an international training course offering lessons on drug addiction, harm reduction, treatment, and volunteering; followed by practical work along the services at Villa Maraini. By the end of the course, each delegation presented a plan of activities for their National Society.

(2) Peer education activities in each partner country conducted by the trained volunteers

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The trained volunteers went back to their home country and rolled out training courses for local youth volunteers; information sessions for students in schools, universities, nursing schools, scouts; awareness raising and outreach activities with drug users e.g. street counselling and testing on HIV, TB, or Hepatitis, or sports activities with drug users. In the five participating countries more than 7000 young people were involved in local peer education activities.

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(3) Development of training tools and materials on substance abuse for RC/RC volunteers

During the final experience-sharing meeting, volunteers reported and assessed the activities and achievements for each participating country and agreed on best practices and recommendations to be shared with a larger audience. Findings were used for producing/developing the “Training manual for Red Cross Red Crescent peer educators on substance abuse”.

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According to the feedback and impressions collected from the participants to the project Y.A.D., the project has contributed to increase awareness and information about drug abuse and related problems and to improve capacity (knowledge and skills) of young Red Cross/Red Crescent volunteers to disseminate this information among their peers in the community. Most importantly, the project has been a tool to advocate for a change of mentality and behaviours toward people who use drugs, promoting among young people the concept of humanitarian drug policy, which means the use of a humanitarian approach toward people affected by drug addiction, according to the principles of human rights respect and anti-stigma and discrimination.

The project has confirmed that the conduction of peer education activities on substance abuse by RC/RC youth volunteers is a valuable tool for substance abuse prevention and health promotion among young people. RC/RC peer educators can play a great role in raising awareness and knowledge about drug abuse and related problems among their peers, thanks to the good reputation and respect that Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have all over the world. Moreover, RC/RC peer educators can advocate for an humanitarian approach toward drug users better than others since they are inspired and guided by the Fundamental Principles of the International Movement of Red Cross and Red Crescent. Through their work, they can contribute to promote among young people the principles of solidarity, social inclusion and enhancement of most vulnerable and marginalized groups in the society.

“I feel that more rehabilitation centres and methadone clinics should be established in the country” (Kenya Red Cross volunteer)

“After this training I change my mind from ‘to cure drug users’ toward ‘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 to schools, the community and their peers” (Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent volunteer)

“I feel proud to be a RC volunteer, because I can help others to reduce the risk of getting infected with HIV or other infectious disease” (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”. (Iranian Red Crescent volunteer)

Villa Maraini Foundation in Rome, Italy, was established by Italian Red Cross in the 1970ies. The foundations has 40 years of hands-on experience in care, rehabilitation, harm reduction and drug abuse prevention. Among many other specialities, Villa Maraini Foundation has also completed a series of European and international projects with financial support from EU programmes such as Erasmus or the Justice Programme. For more details visit

Erasmus plus is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sports. The programme offers funding to universities, schools, CSOs and state authorities to promote 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. For more information consult the Erasmus plus national agencies in your country:

Download the manual: Manual Project YAD_web

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