North Coast, Northern Ireland
028 7055 9504
info@thehummingbirdproject.org.uk

Into Tomorrow

PwC NI and Hummingbird Project – a ground-breaking suicide prevention programme

The Into Tomorrow project process started at the end of 2018 when PwC NI wanted to have greater impact and engagement with their annual fundraising among 2000+ staff. PwC wanted to address suicide in North and West Belfast, as it had one of the highest suicide rates in Europe and so issued a challenge to the third sector.

A special connection 

PwC chose Hummingbird out of 32 other organisations to lead this project, as they saw that we did things differently. In particular, our use of lived experience was unique and PwC understood that the project would need a special connection with participants as many were distrusting and disengaged from a lot of programmes be it statutory or third sector. Our ethos is very much, if people are going to recover and stabilise and have a future it isn’t about fixing. It is about collaborating, working alongside them through these really tough things to be able to have ownership, control and personal responsibility over it.

Complex mental health

Whenever we wrote the programme, we knew we would deal with complex cases. Some of these young people had homelessness issues, care backgrounds, juvenile engagement with justice system, backgrounds of multiple abuses and drug and alcohol addiction. They had done so many programmes, been with so many different organisations, statutory and non-statutory but they were done, they had no hope. They did not believe that anybody would stick with them and make that change. Our lived experience approach broke down that stigma and it was a long process, because they distrusted that anybody would stay the distance with them.

The programme originally focused on group work but participants couldn’t engage; they were too traumatised, too distrusting. We went back to the collaborative partnership and said if we didn’t address these barriers on a one-to-one individual basis, participants wouldn’t be able to get the impact or the difference of the group work. From listening to participants, hearing some of the issues, we had to take it right back looking at their individual circumstances, to help them with pure stability barriers, before they could move forward.

Changing lives and impacting communities

Leigh Carey, CEO of the Hummingbird Project, stated that “listening to all of the PwC staff, this project actually changed their outlook on themselves and their community. And it’s wonderful to see a partner organisation be able to connect with someone who has been seven years homeless and have that conversation. These young people have the opportunity to see people from different backgrounds, who really genuinely care about their wellbeing.”

PwC and the Hummingbird Project see this programme continuing to grow and develop. Even when the Pandemic hit, PwC and the Hummingbird Project remained committed to our participants, mainly providing 1-2-1 mentoring, giving group work when possible. As a collaborative partnership we see this as a long term, multi-year commitment to the young people. As they graduate through, get into a stable home, start work, we are still there in the background at different levels of support, so that they always know that they can touch base with us if they feel like they are hitting a particularly bad time in their lives… a tailspin. They always have that support.

Ground-breaking

The way in which this programme has been set up and developed is truly ground-breaking, because it raises accountability and impact level. We’re working together, unlike a traditionally funded project where there’s just a beginning and an end. We work collaboratively the funder who are PwC staff, all the time. The way in which the PwC staff have engaged in project is amazing, they help fundraise, help participants with other personal development issues. Whenever participants are moving into first homes unfurnished, PwC staff give generously to ensure they have everything they need. They also co-facilitate groups – it’s truly, ground-breaking. Allowing the third sector to really show the impact that we can have when we work in collaboration with the private sector.

For the Hummingbird Project and PWC our goal was to keep these young people alive. We did, they thrived. A lot of organisations stepped away when this crisis hit. First week of lockdown, the Hummingbird Project and the collective group came together to safely continue to keep this project going, with restrictions being followed with our participants and staff’s safety in mind.

Hummingbird makes the difference

Listening to the young people who are part of this programme, they all say that the difference for them was the staff sticking with them in a crisis. When participants have poor mental health, or they disengage, are angry or frustrated, many organisations understandably, step away. Whereas we stand by and say, Okay, this needs to change, but we’re not going to just discharge you, we understand recovery is not a straight line, that there are ups and downs that happen in life out of our control. That seems to be the big factor for these young people. The trust comes when the chips are down, we don’t say “sorry you’ve misbehaved or you haven’t done what you said you would do, you’re no longer on the program”. Instead, we talk with them and tell them we understand how hard it is to keep on a path, giving them guidance to take back control of their lives and find confidence in their own self-worth and value being able to re-engage and shape a better future for themselves.

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