Youth Shedz, the award winning Welsh youth charity, has launched a new VR project to help address the ‘county lines’ problem.
The project, built using Near-Life’s immersive content platform, is aimed at engaging young people on the topic in a realistic and impactful way. The project has been funded and supported by the KFC Foundation, Gwyn Ty Mor Community Fund and the Police and Community Trust North Wales.
County lines are an issue for communities across the UK. The name describes how dealers in major cities establish networks for the supply and sale of drugs to users in towns and rural areas, often using young people, to carry, store, and sell the drugs on their behalf.
Ensuring young people fully understand the dangerous and exploitative nature of the situation is one of the challenges Youth Shedz hopes to address.
The organisation engaged directly with some of the young people it works with to collaborate on designing and building the interactive VR video experience. The project offers a safe but realistic way to explore some of the real world dilemmas faced by those drawn into the world of County Lines.
The game-like interactive VR film allows young people to make choices and see the impact of the decisions they make. The immersive project has already been trialled with young people to positive effect and has been garnering real interest around its original approach.
The project was led by Sonia Nicholson, a young person who started as a Youth Shedder and has risen through the ranks to be employed as a Youth Shed Coordinator.
Reflecting on the project Sonia stated that: “I have been really happy working on such a vital project teaching our young people about County Lines but the key for me is that using VR and the Near-Life platform we have been able to do it in a fun and really engaging way. We now hope to replicate the project in other areas of the country, using VR and Near-Life for other youngsters to make new interactive films about issues that are close to their hearts such as bullying and mental health.”
Near-Life CEO Mike Todd added:
“We want to support the way people communicate and learn. We couldn’t think of a better use case for our immersive software than the one that Scott and the team have worked on. It’s fantastic to see this technology embraced to support engagement and awareness raising around this challenging topic.”
Georgia Coleman, Together4Colwyn Bay, who has already trialled the immersive game with some of their young stakeholders, commented:
“The county lines VR game designed and created by Youth Shedz has been a real hit, with participants eager to experience the immersive and educational gameplay. We are grateful for Youth Shedz’s dedication to our community and look forward to continuing our partnership.”