EIGHTEEN young people from the Strabane area have come together to celebrate brave steps that are setting them on the right path for brighter, better future.
Strabane Access Youth Engagement (AYE), a youth engagement project, targets the most marginalised young people in society, working with them to develop much needed life skills, instill confidence and prepare them for employment.
Through this project young people learn the importance of inclusion, equality, diversity and work to develop themselves personally to make a helpful contribution to their local community.
Strabane AYE is funded through the International Fund for Ireland’s Personal Youth Development Project (PYDP). The project provides critical intervention to young people at risk.
The project was awarded £195,209 in 2017 to deliver a range of Good Relations, Personal Development and Further Education/ Employability Development skills.
Participants engaged in the project have passed their driving and theory tests, gained an entry level in Essential Maths and went on work placements with a number of businesses in the local area.
The celebration event was a chance to mark the achievements of the participants as well as reflect on the positive work in the area through the programme.
Participants received their certificates of achievement from IFI board member, Allen McAdam, who said: “Tonight offers a great opportunity for young people to look back on their journey and recognise just how far they have come. Of late, the local area has found itself in the centre of a surge of paramilitary activity. The actions of a few act as a reminder of just how fragile relations can be and why positive interventions with younger generations are vital.
“It’s incredibly encouraging to see the impact a project such as this has on society and peace building in Strabane and the wider area. The courses on offer provide young people with a solid foundation that they can continue to grow.”
Strabane AYE project manager, Teresa Stewart, also commented: “Our young people have overcome barriers in the last year, which others take for granted. Our project aims to engage young people who feel like society has left them behind particularly those who find themselves susceptible to engaging in criminal or paramilitary activity.
“We tackle these issues head on. Seeing how far everyone has come, the dedication and commitment they have shown to making changes makes it all worthwhile.”
A participant from the project also spoke of how engaging in the programme had changed their life.
“Before, I was in a dangerous frame of mind and suffered from depression, ADHD and other long term health issues. Since joining, my confidence and self-esteem has greatly improved. I know now I am on the right path and feel much more optimistic about by future.
“I understand where my strengths lie and know how to utilise them. Thanks the project and the help of my mentors I have gained a certificate in acrylic nail application and design, Level 2 in equality and diversity, Level 1 in substance misuse and a Level 3 in first aid. More recently I have opened my own craft businesses on Facebook which I hope to grow in the next year,” they said.