CREATING greater community cohesion and reaching out to disaffected young people are top of the agenda for the newly appointed youth worker at Irish Street.
Rachel McMonagle took up the post, based at Irish Street Community Centre, on Monday of last week, and said she was looking forward to the challenge of providing a diverse range of activities to meet the needs of the young people in the area.
“My remit is to work in the Irish Street area and the wider Waterside area with a range of age groups including early years and young children right up to the young adults who are 25 and under. So, it is a wide remit.
“I am currently working with the young people on some Christmas activities and working towards the Youth Public Meeting which will take place in January. I am planning to get the young people of the area to come forward with their ideas of what they would like to see on offer in the area. Essentially I don’t want to be seen as someone new coming in and dictating what is going to happen, or dictating what gets done in Irish Street. I want my job to reflect what the young people want in their own area, so I will be listening to them and devising an agenda of activities around them,” said Rachel.
At the minute the winter programme, entitled ‘Winter Wonderland,’ is being rolled out and we are running a drop in club for older children and young adults from 7pm to 10pm on a Friday night.”
One area that Rachel is keen to reach out to is the young female adult population of the area: “I will be working towards increasing the number of young people participating in activities in Irish Street, with the aim of getting young people off the streets. I particularly want to engage with disenfranchised young women in the teenage age group and offer them positive creative activities, so I want to establish core activities for them,” she said
Rachel said she wanted the work she did to include aspects of participation and cohesion within young people right across the Irish Street area.
Before being appointed to Irish Street Rachel worked out of Tullyally for almost five years as youth development officer, and among the bigger projects that she spearheaded was ‘Kicking With Both Feet’, a hugely successful initiative which brought together young people from across the Waterside and involved them in positive activities.
“The young people were involved in sport and recreational activities which took them off the streets and involved them in tournaments, so they were actively engaged in competition not against each other but teams in a safe and controlled environment. Another hugely successful initiative I worked on was ‘Journeying Towards Peace’ which ran for a year-and-a-half in Tullyally and involved young people aged between 16 and 24. It was a single identity project looking at issues effecting Protestant people living in isolation on Protestant estates and what it was like for them growing up in an interface area,” she said of her past work.
A big part of Rachel’s work to date has been to facilitate dialogue among young people and introducing them in a safe environment to other identities and ideals by engaging ‘deep dialogue’ techniques through which they were able to share each other’s life histories and hear and learn about others and express themselves without damaging confrontation.