Although I am not originally from the Greater Shankill area, I feel that I have much in common with it's people. I grew up in the Donegall Road/ Sandy Row area and having failed the 11+ examination completed my basic education at the local Secondary School. I had never considered myself capable of achieving a high standard of education and had not found my school days to be a particularly enjoyable experience.
After leaving school at the age of 16 with 5 GCE 'O'Levels, I worked for 16 years as a clerical officer in the Community Health Clinics at Academy Street and Lincoln Avenue. During this time I enrolled in evening classes with the BIFHE and gained a GCE 'A' Level in Psychology. Encouraged by my BIFHE tutor, in 1986 I gave up my job in the Health Service and began a 4 year, full time course of study at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown. Although it was hard work, I enjoyed my Degree Course especially the practical placement year in which I was involved in two separate research projects with children in Southhampton and Belfast. It was the proudest moment of my life when in July 1990 I gained my Bachelor of Science Degree.
I immediately took up the post of Research Officer with the Northern Health and Social Services Board Community Addiction Team in Ballymena. The main purpose of this post was to evaluate the method of treatment provided to clients with an alcohol addiction. The research which I carried out enabled me to gain my Master of Philosophy qualification in July 1996. However, my visits with the families of the clients made me realise the value of support for families under stress.
I came to work at the Early Years Project in August 1997 and was joined shortly afterwards by Gary Pollock our research assistant. Together, Gary and myself are responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of the project and its activities.
It is paramount that the work undertaken within the Early Years Project is monitored and evaluated to ensure that it meets its strategic aims and objectives. These in turn reflect and aspirations of the residents of the Greater Shankill Area. It is also important that research activity within the project endeavors to explore issues covered by the Early Years remit and make recommendations on the impact of the Early Years Project upon the urban and human regeneration of the Greater Shankill Area.
Aims of the Research Department
Overall aims of the research department are, firstly to ensure that the community needs are identified and steps are taken to meet these needs. Secondly to demonstrate our pivotal role in the community development which in turn will help secure the future funding for the Early Years Project.
- To evaluate the activities and community interventions that are undertaken by all Early Years Project employees.
- To assess the impact of these activities and interventions upon the local community against previously agreed benchmark criteria.
- To make recommendations for future activities and community interventions in the light of the findings of these evaluations.
- To undertake or commission research activity which deemed appropriate within the remit of the Early Years Project. This research activity will investigate issues that arise as a result of the Early Years community activity and intervention.