In a place like Bermuda, the youth population is as vulnerable as anywhere else when it comes to the temptations associated with antisocial behaviour, and in particular, drug use. Steering young minds in the right direction en masse can be a challenging task, one that requires a collective community-based response executed by people with a genuine passion for what they do. In this spirit, this seems as appropriate a time as any to acknowledge the work of PRIDE, Bermuda’s youth-focused substance abuse prevention organisation, which is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary in operation. In light of this milestone, we interviewed programme director Samantha Smith for her thoughts about her role in the organisation, various successful initiatives, and all things PRIDE.
“After being with PRIDE for over a decade, I have worked in every programme-related area,” says Smith, explaining that she’s always had a passion for working with Bermuda’s youth. “I do presentations, supervise staff and represent PRIDE in whatever capacity is requested.” While her role is multifaceted, she notes that her current area of focus is an internationally recognised training programme called Botvin LifeSkills (LST), which is evidence-based and has been implemented in 38 countries. “As it relates to Bermuda, the LST programme evaluation results continue to show that the programme is a success across all levels,” she elaborates. “The programme increases skills and knowledge which eventually leads to a change in attitudes and behaviours surrounding substance use.”
Speaking about PRIDE’s many successes throughout its 30-year history, Smith reveals that shifting to evidence-based prevention programming proved to be one of their wisest decisions. “What that means is that we are able to measure and prove our success,” she says. “Our most important gain is the impact we have seen and measured in the lives of the youth that have gone through our programmes.” In describing how the organisation operates, she impresses the importance of implementing their plan as designed. “Locally, we aim to run our programmes with fidelity. In addition, we put a lot of emphasis on programme evaluation to ensure that we get maximum impact. Finally, we collaborate with the developers overseas to confirm that we are on par with our international peers.”
Smith takes pride in the credentials of the people and organisations she works with, praising their commitment to the island’s youth. “Three of our fulltime staff have acquired an international certification as prevention specialists recognised by Bermuda Addiction Certification Board (BACB) and the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC),” she explains. “Our executive director Judith Burgess was recognised by PRIDE International. She also sat on the boards of PRIDE International and Youth to Youth Eastern States.” In terms of strategic partners, PRIDE is directly associated with the Department for National Drug Control (DNDC), which describes the organisation as the premiere drug prevention agency on the island. “Our programmes are offered in line with the DNDC’s Master Plan. Their research department recently completed a comprehensive processes evaluation and deemed the LST programme a success,” she says, adding that other collaborating partners include the island’s schools, the Centre On Philanthropy, The Family Centre, CADA and many more.
While changing young peoples’ attitudes towards drug use is a difficult and complex endeavour, Smith and her colleagues at PRIDE are steadily opening Bermuda’s eyes to the dangers of substance abuse through proactive, scalable initiatives that actually work. With a positive attitude and a devout passion for what she does, she’s confident that her organisation’s methods will continue to prove successful. “Understanding that we can use a strategic and evidence-based method to impact families and communities solidified my buy-in and keeps my ‘fire burning’ for prevention.”