23 March 2010

A pioneering project which offers help and support to teenagers who self-harm is to be presented with the highest national award for volunteer groups at a ceremony tomorrow evening (WED).

The Opal Project will receive prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service - the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK for outstanding work done in their local communities - from the Queen’s representative Lady Juliet Townsend, Northamptonshire’s Lord Lieutenant.

The Opal Project is one of 95 volunteering groups from across the UK which was awarded the honour and one of only five in the East Midlands region.

The Brackley-based project was awarded for its work in helping young people understand why they self-harm and develop alternative coping strategies.

Councillor Andrew Grant, Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The Queen’s Award sets the national benchmark for excellence in volunteering, and the activities of those awarded have been judged of the highest standard.

“The Opal Project offers a vital lifeline to young people who often feel isolated and alone, and thanks to their website they have been able to reach out to young people all over the world. It also provides a valuable tool for parents and professionals who may need help to understand and respond to a self-harming young person.”

The Opal Project was created by two Northamptonshire students in March 2003 who have themselves been through the problem. It is based, and supported by, Northamptonshire County Council’s Dillon’s Centre for young people in Brackley.

Since its creation, the project has gone from strength-to-strength with the creation of a website and a ‘spectrum’ journal, specifically targeted at self-harmers as a safe release point to express their emotions. Since its creation in 2006, 6,138 have visited the site from nearly 90 countries worldwide.

The Opal Project also runs a drop-in facility for local young people offering activities as varied as coping with depression and stress-busting techniques, kickboxing, reflexology, sculpturing, and circus skills.

Additional information

More than 700 groups around the UK have now won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, over the seven years since it was created by Her Majesty to mark the occasion of her Golden Jubilee in 2002.

For more information please visit the Opal Project website.