Staff 2019-09-16T15:18:09+00:00

Be Wiser

The WISER education team are dedicated to providing students and staff with high quality interactive workshops based on the most up-to-date and relevant information. The education team are constantly evaluating their programmes to best meet the need of their participants. Our staff are highly trained and enthusiastic about teaching sexual health.

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Meet Our Team

Lorraine O’Connell
Lorraine O’Connell

Lorraine has worked for AIDS West for nearly 8 years as their Sexual Health Education Coordinator. In her role she designs, delivers and evaluates sexual health programmes, promoting positive sexual health and HIV awareness to communities in the West of Ireland.  The WISER programme is currently being delivered by Lorraine and her colleagues in over 40 schools. The programme is constantly evolving, in order to stay up-to-date with new research in sexual health, and tailor the content to be age-appropriate and meet the needs of the students.

Lorraine is currently studying part-time in DCU for an MA in Sexuality Studies, having studied Health Promotion to Postgraduate level in NUIG, with Psychological Studies and Sociology & Politics as her undergraduate degree.

In the coming year, Lorraine will be facilitating the HSE Foundation Programme in Sexual Health Education.

Lorraine has completed numerous training courses and has completed the Children First training.

In 2016 Lorraine completed the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) “Speakeasy Plus” training, equipping her with the knowledge and skill to be able to work with people with specific challenges or learning needs.

Dr. Siobhán O’Higgins
Dr. Siobhán O’Higgins

Dr. Siobhán O’Higgins has been promoting sexual health since 1990. She has worked with families, young people and prisoners as a youth and community worker, then a teacher, a lecturer, and now as a clinical researcher with expertise in qualitative methodologies, in the Centre for Pain Research, School of Psychology, NUI Galway. She is leading a longitudinal school-based study exploring the prevalence, impact and cost of chronic pain among 5-12 year olds living in Ireland (PRIME C). Siobhán has a Masters in Health Promotion and in 2011 was awarded a PhD.

Her PhD research explored what young Irish people want to learn and how they want to be taught about sexuality and relationships. The research also looked at RSE teachers’ reactions to the young people’s data and what they felt they would need in order to teach the highlighted topics using the listed methods. Siobhán was able to translate her PhD thesis into practice (as an education and awareness programme for school children and parents in the West of Ireland) working with AIDS West as a Sexual Health Educator. She has been working with AIDS West since 2008 and enjoyed every minute!! At present she is piloting ‘Smart Consent’ workshops developed in response to the latest research on risk-taking, sexual and alcohol behaviours among third level students.

Siobhán also has qualifications in counselling, youth and community work as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Criminology. In relation to training as a facilitator, Siobhán worked with Co-Operation Ireland (formerly known as Co-Operation North) during the 1990s and attended annual facilitation training days as well as numerous specific programme delivery trainings as for example, Coping On, TRUST and The RealU.

In 2004, working with Dr. Nic Gabhainn and Dr. Sixsmith in the Health Promotion Research Centre, she developed the Participative Research Process (PRP); a new tool for Participative Health Research. Since then, the process has been used in many different contexts resulting in numerous groups being able to explore and present their ideas in ways that are accessible to the powers that be. For example, women with diabetes examined why it was that so few of them actually attend the free pre-pregnancy course run by the Diabetes Centre in UHG, proven to enhance pregnancy and birth outcomes. The issues identified by the women included fear of staff’s negative reactions to news of pregnancy, or their lapsing from their strict dietary regime – areas not fully considered before.

In 2016 Siobhan completed the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) “Speakeasy Plus” training, equipping her with the knowledge and skill to be able to work with people with specific challenges or learning needs.

Kate Dawson
Kate Dawson

Kate Dawson has been working as an education facilitator with AIDS West since 2013. Kate completed a Masters in Health Promotion, and focused her research on the effects of pornography on Irish students. Kate has recently begun a Ph.D with the School of Psychology at NUI, Galway. Her research aim is to create an evidence-based online resource which will enable young people to think critically about the sexualised images, like pornography, that they may be exposed to online.

Kate is the current editor or the AIDS West newsletter ‘Happiness is Vital’ and is involved in various projects, including the management and implementation of the AIDS West-WISER youth board, alongside colleague Hayley Mulligan.

Kate has completed several sexual health-based training programmes, including the HSE Foundations in Sexual Health Programme and child protection training.

In 2016 Kate completed the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) “Speakeasy Plus” training, equipping her with the knowledge and skill to be able to work with people with specific challenges or learning needs.

Hayley Mulligan
Hayley Mulligan

Hayley Mulligan has been an education facilitator with AIDS West since 2012. Her background is in Law and Social Policy. Having completed her LLM in the Irish Centre of Human Rights, she has gone on to read for her PhD in NUIG, researching reproductive rights within the Irish legal system. Hayley has completed several training programmes as part of work with AIDS West, including the HSE Foundation Programme in Sexual Health Education and Children First training. 

She also attends many seminars and workshops to inform her work as a facilitator. She was editor and contributor of the magazine ‘Happiness is Vital’ from 2012-2014 and continues to contribute to this edition. In collaboration with Kate Dawson, Hayley has established, and managed, the AIDS West-WISER Youth Board which informs the work and content of the WISER education programme.

In 2016 Hayley completed the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) “Speakeasy Plus” training, equipping her with the knowledge and skill to be able to work with people with specific challenges or learning needs.

Grace O’Shea
Grace O’Shea

Grace has been a WISER Relationships and Sexuality Educator for almost 4 years, and is passionate about delivering RSE in Ireland which is comprehensive, factual, progressive, inclusive, empowering, age-appropriate and sex-positive.  Grace mainly works with young people between the ages of 10 and 18 years in in primary, secondary and alternative education settings. She is also trained to provide rapid HIV testing, and is responsible for the continuous review and development of the WISER programmes and website.

Grace has undergone extensive professional development in this role, through completing a range of training courses delivered by (but not limited to) the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, Tusla, the HSE, the Irish Family Planning Association, AMACH, Consent Matters Ireland, Penn State University, University of Twente and NUI Galway.

Grace also created and piloted a Positive Body Image workshop for adolescents, in addition to delivering add-on workshops which compliment the core WISER programme. These workshops have focused on topics such as consent, porn literacy and sex and technology/social media. Grace is an experienced educator, having worked as a tutor and lecturer in areas such as health promotion, body image and sexuality, risky adolescent behaviours, and more.

Grace also has amassed experience as a researcher. She was awarded a scholarship to conduct research on Empathy, Social Values and Young People in the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, and has also worked in multiple research assistant roles. She earned an MA (Hons) in Health Promotion from NUI Galway in 2016; her research study examined adolescent body image and how it develops within peer environments and processes (‘An investigation of adolescent perceptions of the Body Image Peer Influence Model’).

Grace left University College Cork in 2015 with her BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy, and has worked with individuals with an extensive range of abilities and difficulties within school, university and hospital settings. Her qualitative research study explored the experience of being transgender in Ireland, the healthcare services that transgender people use and may have desired to access during their transition (‘The perspective of transgender individuals on the healthcare services that they have experienced in Ireland’).

Grace can be contacted at graceaidswest@gmail.com.

We’d love to hear from you!

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