I began using substances from quite a young age - by the age of 16 I was smoking crack cocaine and then by 17 I was fully dependent on heroin.

I got into problems and had to leave my hometown, and found myself homeless. I ended up in temporary accommodation and went through the whole hostel system. Eventually I managed to get my own place and linked in with the support services I needed.

Now I volunteer in the Needle Exchange and Street Injectors Support Service in Belfast three to four times a week. We go out around the streets doing outreach work - sometimes we would find people in car parks that could be dying due to overdose. We use a drug called Naloxone to reverse overdose and administer first aid as well.

Extern staff prepare to go out on outreach work

Volunteering with Extern has completely changed my life. It has given me a real sense of direction. Growing up, I never thought I would
have a purpose in life, but now I have something to get out of bed for in the morning.

Winning the NI Volunteer of the Year Award was mind-blowing. It means the world to me. To be up on stage in front of hundreds of people was nerve-wracking but it was amazing to be able to read out my speech and send out a message that things have to change. It was also nice to be able to bring something positive to my mum’s door after years of bad news.

Neil Potter, Volunteer,
Drug Outreach Team

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