Big thank you from

Jenny Munro talks to Alison Armstrong

Alison ArmstrongALISON Armstrong is a Community Support Worker with ASCERT - a Lisburn based organisation that works with communities, supporting them to find ways to address substance misuse in their area.

She was born in Lisburn but moved to South Africa with her family when she was a child. Here Alison worked in administration for a mining company and trained as a teacher.

Fourteen years ago she returned to Northern Ireland and set up home again in Lisburn where she now lives with her husband and four children.

She worked as a mentoring co-ordinator and volunteer development officer for young children before training at University to become a counsellor and taking up her current position.

I get up most mornings between 6.30am and 7am. My husband helps the boys get organised and my twin daughters get themselves ready for school. It's crazy in my house in the morning.

I take the boys to school and try to be at work for 8.45am in order to get a parking space. On my way to work I am already thinking about what has to be done that day The project is still in its early stages so we are still promoting it .

I normally start my day dealing with enquiries. My main function is to assess the needs of the community groups and point them in the right direction.

I work with local groups within the Eastern social healthcare board area and address substance misuse. I provide mentoring support to help the groups implement their own initiatives and help them to achieve their own goals and objectives. This work is funded by Lisburn Partnership and additional funding has allowed the organisation to work in a larger area, which is great.

I organise planning sessions, which take place once a week for three weeks and last a couple of hours. As it's an outreach scheme I go out to the groups.

When I'm in the office I schedule appointments and try to establish what it really is the groups actually want to address. I try to pinpoint the exact area and make sure the group establishes its objectives.

I work with all types of community groups including community associations, women's groups and mothers and toddlers and I never know what I will be working on next. I find it very exciting and challenging helping the groups to establish their projects.

Most days I finish at lunch time as I work part-time hours and head home but I often have to come back to the office in the evening to take training courses. Accredited training courses run throughout the year for our members. The level two course I teach lasts 10 weeks.

On a night I have a class I arrive at the office at 5pm and start preparing for the members arriving. This includes getting tea, coffee and biscuits ready, putting out chairs and making sure the room is warm enough. The class starts at 6.30pm and each week I look at the different drugs categories in depth. The classes cater for between 15-20 people and last three hours with a short break in the middle. It can be quite intense as I like my classes to be interactive with charts, games, group work. In fact it is all go and by the end my throat is sore.

Around 9.30pm I'll finish and try to answer any queries people may have before locking up the premises and heading home.

When I get home I'll see how the children are and then have something to eat. I like to chill out for a while and then head to bed.

Ulster Star