GCU teams up with youth charity to show human cost of gang violence

28 February 2013

The interactive sessions feature a plastic model with removable organs

The interactive sessions feature a plastic model with removable organs

Youngsters linked with gang-related violence are attending classes at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) to learn about how easily fights can end in death and serious injury. 

The sessions, attended by young people completing The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme, are designed to counter common myths that certain types of attacks cause no lasting damage and that the body can almost always heal itself. 

Colin Gourlay, a Prince’s Trust Development Tutor, said: “This approach is very powerful, to the point that young people vow to never carry a knife – their attitudes are fundamentally changed by these expert inputs.”

The interactive sessions at GCU feature computer images of the arterial system, a plastic model with removable organs, and a skeleton with a mechanical heart and an exposed artery system. Other laboratory apparatus – more commonly used to teach courses in GCU’s School of Health and Life Sciences –  is used to reinforce the serious message behind the project.   

The sessions are part of GCU’s commitment to the common good – meaning the use of the university’s skills and facilities for the benefit of the community – and part of the university’s wider remit to engage with and learn from the public.

GCU’s Dr Jim Reilly, Community and Public Engagement Fellow and Lecturer in Life Sciences, said he wanted to encourage the young people to think about their own bodies and how easily they could be seriously hurt or killed in the event of an attack.

He said: “This is a unique use of the university’s facilities which pays dividends when we’re working with these groups of young people. The facilities we have and semi-formal setting of the sessions allow us to bring home the reality surrounding these issues.”   

The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme works to support vulnerable young people aged 13-25. The programme aims to give young people motivation, self-confidence and the skills needed to change their lives and more forward into education, employment and training.

Colin Gourlay added: “Our work with GCU is part of an issue-based course to deal with gang behaviour and change social attitudes about the acceptability of carrying a weapon. After the course, the young people will be in absolutely no doubt about how dangerous that can be.

“The most recent visit to GCU provided a hugely powerful primer to a session I had arranged in the afternoon with Medics Against Violence. This session was run by a trauma surgeon who was able to refer to the content of the GCU session in a very effective way.”

Chris Gibson, 15, from Royston in Glasgow, who took part, said: “I learned a lot about the dangers of getting attacked, things I didn’t know that much about before. I’ve seen these things (attacks) when I’ve been going about before and it’s frightening. I know now I really need to watch myself.”