YMCA mentor Courtney reflects on inclusive buddy programme

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The Londonderry Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) is a local youth club that children from the ages of between five and eleven-years-old can come along to on various nights during the week to associate with their peers.

At the start of the new term in September 2015 we started a program called the buddy program, where people from the age of twelve to sixteen gave their time as young volunteers to help with the younger members.

The buddies met after the Tuesday youth club at the YMCA in Drumahoe in order to discuss ways of bringing more children with disabilities into the club.

The buddies thought it was important that children with disabilities were also included and encouraged to attend local youth clubs.

During the program we learnt about different disabilities and how they affected the children.

We learnt how to communicate in different ways, with fun activities and methods to make the youth program better for the young people.

The program so far has brought in at least ten new children from different local areas with a range of disabilities.

They have come to the YMCA and have been included in all the different activities.

The buddies helped to integrate these young people into the club and also help build their confidence, self-esteem and promote inclusion and equal treatment. Inclusion is a big part of the Londonderry YMCA.

At the end of the program the buddies were sent on a residential weekend.

Firstly, as a reward for all our hard work completing the program, and secondly, to enhance the new skills we have learnt.

The residential included a variety of activities such as, raft-building, laser tag, zip line and a high ropes course. Within these activities we had to use different skills that we learnt during the program like with the ropes course we had to communicate with each other to get across ropes safely and without falling.

During raft-building, we had to work in teams to successfully build a raft that would hold six people on water without falling apart.

We learnt how to communicate and have better team work during the program which helped in both activities.

Personally the program has helped me in so many ways.

I have gained more knowledge about a variety of disabilities and it has made me understand the barriers that young people with disabilities face on a daily basis.

In my opinion without the program we would not have succeeded in becoming such an inclusive club as we gained so many new skills and developed a wide range of different strategies.

The Londonderry YMCA in Drumahoe is a voluntary organisation that works with children, young people, families and the community.

Founded in 1856 it’s currently based at 51 Glenshane Road, Drumahoe, Londonderry. To contact the club and get involved telephone 028 7130 1662.