Anne-Marie Cockburn’s daughter Martha Fernback died four years ago this week of an MDMA overdose. Now she is building on her work on restorative justice and forgiveness by piloting a new project that will teach teenagers to make good decisions.
Martha Fernback was a 15-year-old pupil at Cherwell School. She died on 20th July 2013 in Oxford’s Hinksey Park after swallowing half a gram of ecstasy powder or MDMA. Unknown to Martha and her friends, the powder was 91% pure, and Martha died of a cardiac arrest. Her mother Anne-Marie has spent the past four years campaigning for drug reform, believing that if the substance had been legalised and regulated, Martha would still be alive.
After Martha’s death Anne-Marie set up a named fund with Oxfordshire Community Foundation in her memory. The money donated by friends and family is supporting a number of projects around restorative justice, forgiveness and education. Now Anne-Marie is working with OCF to pilot a new project, consisting of workshops in schools for vulnerable teenagers that will equip them to make better decisions in any area of their life.
The project will build on the skills and tools Anne-Marie has developed whilst working with The Forgiveness Project – a charity that uses the real stories of victims and perpetrators of crime to explore concepts of forgiveness, and to encourage people to consider alternatives to resentment, retaliation and revenge. As well as working with prisoners on this project, Anne-Marie has worked through the charity to contact and forgive the man who sold the lethally strong MDMA powder to her daughter.
The project will use art, film or music to engage students, as well as telling the real stories of Martha and young ex-offenders who will join the workshops. Anne-Marie says: “We will be going into an Oxford school and working with a small group of teenagers, using very simple tools for life. It’s all about dialogue – creating a space where young people can talk. From that we can decide on a blueprint for an ongoing project that could be developed for all schools.
“It’s now the fourth anniversary of Martha’s death, and it’s just amazing to have reached this point. It all seems very neat and tidy now and incredibly relevant to what’s needed – and it’s something that means an awful lot to me.”
Watch a video of Anne-Marie talking about her project here: