Each year, a Northern Ireland charity is providing support for thousands of children, young people, individuals and families.

Extern enables them to overcome their challenges, empower positive change and support family unity. While most may know Extern for their work with the most vulnerable in society who present as homeless, it is much more than that.

With the cost of living crisis having devastating impacts on families and individuals right across the region, Belfast Live is launching a new campaign to help Extern.

Read more: Extern staff open up on why 'it's more than just a job'

The 'Changing Lives' campaign will fundraise for money that will be used to directly support Extern's local addiction services and provide service users with practical items needed, such as clothing, food and energy vouchers.

In the most recent NISRA figures on drug-related and drug-misuse deaths in Northern Ireland 2021, the number of drug-related deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2021 (213) was the second highest on record, five less than the 2020 peak of 218 deaths.

The same was true for drug-misuse deaths, decreasing from the series high of 182 in 2020 to a second highest total of 175 in 2021. Belfast HSCT and Belfast LGD had the highest age-standardised rate of drug related deaths per 100,000 population – 19.2 and 21.1 respectively.

Drug-related and drug-misuse deaths continue to be higher in areas of highest deprivation, according to the NISRA stats. In the context of the UK in 2021, Scotland had the highest age-standardised rate of drug-misuse deaths at 25.0, Northern Ireland had the second highest rate at 9.4,and England and Wales had a rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 population.

The Extern team of staff and volunteers support people with alcohol and drug issues, homelessness and mental health and suicide, among others The charity also works with people engaged within the criminal justice system, minority communities and helps with skills and employment.

Through this campaign, Belfast Live and Extern will support people living with addiction, with items that will change their lives in small ways. The campaign will also focus around positive messages of hope and encouragement with some practical advice for those struggling.

Things that may seem small to us can be massive.

Sheena McStravick, Belfast Live Editor said: "We are so proud to be teaming up with Extern to launch this partnership. In our line of work we encounter countless stories from people across Northern Ireland who have turned their lives around thanks to the dedicated work and support from Extern.

"Belfast Live has always championed the people of Northern Ireland and we are delighted to use our platform to shine a light on the amazing work Extern is doing in communities up and down the country, as well as providing practical advice and support for those who need it most.

"Keep an eye on our website and social channels in the coming weeks and months as we bring you a real insight into the charity with stories from volunteers and service users as well as key ways in which we can all help Extern to continue the invaluable work they do."

Colin Hayburn, Extern CEO said: "Extern is delighted that Belfast Live will be promoting our work supporting a diverse range of people within our communities, including those who are facing challenges with problem substance use, poor mental health and homelessness.

Extern CEO Colin Hayburn at the launch of Belfast Lives Changing Lives Campaign

Colin Hayburn, Extern CEO 

"This is an opportunity for us to raise even greater awareness of our life-changing work as well as increase some of the understanding around the issues that our service users face in their daily lives.

"The public can support Extern through this appeal by making a donation. Whatever you are able to give, we will ensure that every donation goes towards helping our service users in the months ahead."

Help us to change lives today by donating to our Changing Lives campaign right here.

Video by Belfast Live videographer Harry Bateman.