Dawn Russell, Head of Services, Ana Liffey Drug Project
What does your job involve?
My job is to work with active drug users to reduce the harm to them and the society they live in. So, we run a lot of services like needle exchanges, safer-injecting groups and treatment and referral groups. We are there to solve problems and to deal with crises, so because of that I don’t have a normal week. I do have certain tasks I have to do each week, but a lot of my time is spent reacting to events and planning to unforeseen events.
What is the most important trait for your job?
Most of my work is related to problem solving, so you have to be solution focused. Also, communication, so no matter who I am engaging with, whether it’s a staff member or one of our service users I need to have strong communication skills. Flexibility is also very important. When I go to work I need to be ready to whatever I have to deal with that day.
What was your path to your job?
I completed a social care degree in DIT, I was always interested in working in the area of addiction so I went on site visits to existing projects to see what it involved. That drove me to want to work specifically in the area of harm reduction.
What motivates you in your job?
On a daily basis I am working with people all the time, and that’s something I really enjoy doing. I’m always looking to improve the services we provide within the scope of the resources we have, so I am motivated to help people and communities.
What advice would you have for students?
For those interested in the voluntary sector I would say that the main necessary skill is teamwork, it’s how everything is done. Whether its within your own organisation or with a partner organisation or at government level, you need to know how to listen to others views and take them on board, then to articulate your own views and come up with a plan.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Within Ana Liffey I’m in a position to represent the people we work for, to listen to them and the staff and bring their feedback to a level that they can’t reach in order to effect change. That is what is important to me.
What is some of the achievements you’re proud of?
One of the main successes we have achieved is normalising harm reduction, it’s now something which is accepted within the addiction sector as a practical way to intervene in drug use.