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Students help vulnerable adults develop skills through debating

(3 January 2019)

Second Chance participant Scott Marks speaks during a debate

Students have been helping vulnerable adults grow in confidence and develop life skills through a debating-based outreach programme.

The Second Chance programme saw members of Durham Union Society (DUS), the student debating society, coach and mentor vulnerable adults over seven weeks. 

The programme has run annually for over a decade, during which time over 200 people have participated.

The 2018 programme ended with a set-piece debate at the DUS debating chamber, followed by a celebration event nearby.

The debate, ‘This house believes that the world would be a better place without nuclear weapons’, was won by the opposition.

Who took part?

Twenty participants from Free the Way and Durham Action on Single Housing.

Based in Seaham, County Durham, Free the Way delivers accommodation, support and development programmes to help recovering addicts into independent living.

Durham Action on Single Housing (DASH) is an independent charity based in Durham City which provides supported and unsupported housing to people who are homeless or at risk of homelenessness.

What did they say?

Participant Scott Marks said: “I thoroughly enjoyed learning the art of debating. My first attempt at delivering a short speech I’d written was a bumbling mess. However, through the weeks of coaching and confidence-building, I was able to deliver a coherent and decisive argument for my case. I’d highly recommend anyone to partake in this activity.”

Another participant, from DASH, said: “I never thought I would gain as much from the training programme as I did. It is an opportunity not to be missed. The students are a credit to Durham University. They were very approachable, answering all queries and supportive throughout, including respecting all the participants’ personal opinions and views.”

Quentin Sloper, Director of Experience Durham, said: “It’s great to see our students using their love of debating to help people in local communities. Debating may seem formal, but it’s a great way to build confidence and communication skills which can help people find work and become positive citizens.”