‘We don’t care about race or creed, it’s the economy stupid,’ say city’s young adults

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What We Did - David

Last October, Derry youth groups got an invitation from a youth group in Donemana to start working on a joint good relations project, funded by the Housing Executive.

We started by completing a number of workshops on sectarianism, racism, lobbying, and community safety with our individual groups. Then we met up with the group from Donemana to plan the project ourselves. This included a few trips to their local Orange Hall. For most of us, it was our first time in an Orange Hall and they were very welcoming and answered any questions we had, including the Band that was practicing. Later on, another group from Castlederg got involved and we got to know them at our first residential - a trip to Jungle NI in February. For me, the most interesting part of this trip was a visit to a farm in Desertmartin that was in the middle of lambing season. I got to hold a newborn lamb and get a photo taken and it was amazing - I wanted to take one home to Rosemount. I’ve been involved in good relations projects through Rosemount Resource Centre for a long time, but this showed a new dimension - urban/rural relations. All the rural young people couldn’t understand why we were so excited about the farm because for them it was ordinary, but for the urban Derry groups it was a very new experience.

In Rosemount we’ve been working closely with the Foyle Springs group for a number of months now because we are lucky enough to have a big Resource Centre and they don’t have any facilities or resources at all in Foyle Springs. They’re even the only community group in the area and they only started up last year. We’ve given their group free use of our Centre anytime they want it and they’ve joined up with us on Thursday nights and sometimes for Friday night football. We’ve also hosted the NICEM ethnic minority groups, including Kabalikat, in Rosemount at several sessions because they don’t have premises either. To return the favour, they extended the invitation that was made to them to get involved in all the trips and residentials and it’s been great. We had a community planning session that involved role playing a number of different scenarios and learning about how community planning works. Even just last week, NICEM and Rosemount Resource Centre jointly hosted a group of 25 young American law students who were interested in our work on tackling sectarianism and racism. We had joint workshops looking at issues affecting us around health, community development, training and education, employment, youth work and a number of other things...It was about working together and sharing resources, learning from each other and developing joint solutions. This is really what community planning is about and to us the most important part is that we’ve been in charge of the project’s direction. We’ve identified all the activities and workshop topics and policy issues ourselves. We’re now identifying our own solutions to these issues and for youth work with our age group to succeed, this is how it has to be - led by the young people themselves. We understand that we’re currently in a period where there aren’t as many resources available to communities as there once were. This programme includes young people from all backgrounds from right across our new Council area (and we’re hoping to bring in a few more groups to cover rural Derry and urban Strabane and a few more ethnic minority backgrounds soon) and we’re looking to develop projects and services where we share resources to the benefit of us all.

Inter-Cultural - Ericka

In NICEM and in Kabalikat we do a lot of cultural work including events throughout the year.

We hope to bring that element into our youth programme now as well and also to learn about the other cultural backgrounds of the other participants. We hope to have concerts of different styles of music, including local traditional and band music with workshops to teach us about them. We have a number of dancers in Kabalikat including a fantastic choreographer (Paul) and we do traditional Filipino dance styles as well as hip-hop and street. We would love to have other styles of dance added into the mix to learn about other cultures, including Irish and Ulster Scots.

We’d also like to share food from around the world, including learning how to cook it. We could have cultural shows and crafts, starting within our own youth programme, but eventually widening them out to include people from across the new Council area of all ages or even regionally.

Kabalikat has had a very successful language school where our younger members who were born here have learned Tagalog, our Filipino language. We would like to start learning about the other groups’ languages, including Irish and Ulster Scots. Polish Abroad also has a successful language school and we hope to include some Polish young people when we widen out the membership of the project.

Kabalikat has a very successful annual Games Day where we include traditional Filipino games, as well as other sports and games. (And where we were all amazed at just how terrible Kat is at ping-pong.) It would be great to have a wider traditional games day where we learn about sports and games from other countries, including some of the old time games people’s parents and grandparents played here.

Finally, we hope to have a number of activities organised over the summer, subject to getting funding. All of these will have an educational element and a policy focus for us, but also some team-building and fun activities. A camping trip with fishing, hiking and roasting marshmallows and fireside storytelling (a bit of an American influence) would be a fantastic joint trip to introduce the new groups we hope will join us soon. Of course this is subject to the weather.

Need for a Youth Hub - Howell

At the start of the programme we worked in our individual groups and as a collective to identify a number of policy issues young people from across the District are facing.

This part of the Programme was funded by the PCSP. Again, we felt it was important that we as young people led this process ourselves. Kat facilitated us and wrote up the sessions, but we identified the issues and developed solutions to them ourselves.

They included the following: In Kabalikat, a large percentage of our parents came to Derry from the Philippines to work as nurses. There are a number of issues around nurses’ pay currently, including the recent Tory proposal of a minimum annual salary of £35,000 for immigrants to be entitled to “leave to remain indefinitely”; the increasing availability of “legal highs” (although as of yesterday, these are now officially illegal as well) and other drugs; Increasing territoriality, the rural/urban split, the Derry/Strabane split within the new Council area; Increasing racist attitudes (not necessarily among young people but their older family members), particularly since the latest refugee “crisis;” Prevalence of “drinking dens” and availability of alcohol to very young teenagers, particularly in the Springtown area of Derry;; Sexual abuse as a result of intoxication;; Misperception by older people that all young people (in groups of 3 or more) must be engaged in antisocial behaviour;; The increase in antisocial behaviour, violence, crime and intimidation - “hood” culture; Peer pressure relating to all these issues; Very different views on the PSNI (and not necessarily predictable by community background “traditional” stances); The impact of the recession and the cuts means that many people are no longer in work and/or in more debt and the financial situation in households has changed dramatically over a relatively short period of time ­and more adults are developing alcohol or prescription drug dependencies, more teenagers are able to come and go as they please, more young people are expected to contribute financially to the household.

But above all, our main issue is the lack of local employment opportunities for young people, the lack of a local university and the huge number of young people who are emigrating for education and work and not returning.

Just like Foyle Springs, Kabalikat does not have premises and we hope that developing a Youth Hub (or Youth Zone) will solve both of these problems. Over the summer we hope to undertake a number of training opportunities in order to develop a large social economy Youth Hub project which will offer some employment opportunities, a shared space for young people from across the District and the site to develop all of our joint projects. We hope to expand our programme to include many more youth groups in Derry and Strabane so that this will really be a representative project from our whole Council area and we will use a community planning process to develop the project. We know this is not a short-term project, but if we’re successful in getting the European Youth Capital bid for 2019, it could be a wonderful part of that.

The Youth Hub - Raviena

Last year the Rosemount group went over to England to learn about Youth Hub projects and how to manage them.

In Derry & Strabane we currently have nothing like this, but a lot of smaller community and youth centres. While these are great - and we’ve all loved being invited to Rosemount and making use of their premises for the past number of months - we all feel that there is now a need for a larger, shared, youth-managed social economy project in the city. Of course we would want to build in transport to this project so that it would be widened out to include the rural areas of our Council, as well as urban Strabane groups.

We’ve identified a number of places where this project could be based, including Springtown, the Science Park and Ebrington. Over the summer we will be working on a large consultation and research project where we’ll be doing surveys and focus groups to ask young people from across the District what they would want to see included in a Youth Hub/Youth Zone, where they would like it to be based, how they would prefer to access services and a whole range of issues. Again, this whole process will be led by us, the young people from across the District.

While the research will inform the development of the project, we have already identified a number of elements we want to see included in the Youth Hub.

They include: Movie nights; A gym and sports facilities, including a dance studio, which could also be used for music classes; A food court (eating area i.e. Café with healthy options featured); The Inter-Cultural projects Ericka spoke about; Events and festivals; Volunteering and work experience opportunities; Social economy projects and local small business opportunities for youth-led initiatives.

In addition to housing all of our joint projects, the Youth Hub would also provide a range of learning and training opportunities, as well as offering local employment to young people. There would be tutoring facilities with one-to-one mentoring between young people on academic as well as practical subjects. There would be a library, including a virtual e-library and learning hub. We would provide a range of training workshops and employability skills. And we could use the space to bring in a vast supply of external trainers and facilitators to suit us across a range of relevant topics. The main positive aspect of the Youth Hub and how it would differ from every other facility currently available in Derry & Strabane is that it would be completely shared and totally youth-led. Our generation is already much more multicultural than ever before in Derry and we see this as a positive thing.

Sectarianism and racism are not our issues anymore and we don’t see these issues and identity the way that our parents did - we need to begin to develop facilities and programmes that reflect this and that are open to our whole community.

Finally, technology has progressed so quickly, the recession is still having an impact, politics have changed globally, we’re facing a range of issues today and working in ways that no longer resonate between generations. Youth-led projects are absolutely critical in order to give us our own voice and we need a shared space to enable us to do this.

The Benefits - Kryzzel

This project has enabled us to meet new people and make new friends that we would never have come into contact with otherwise.

Establishing the Youth Hub would make this the norm like it is in other countries - a shared space where teenagers can come together, feel safe, have a voice and have a say in developing our own projects and services.

Employment opportunities and increased skills are our biggest issue locally and this project would enable us to work directly on this ourselves. If the Hub is run as a social economy project, there would be space for local youth-led businesses to develop and have a space within the Hub. For example, some of our group members will be undertaking Food Hygiene, Health and Safety, First Aid, Youth Work and other certificate courses this summer to enable us to work in the Hub once it is established. We’ll have increased confidence and skills as a result of working on this together. There will be opportunities for multicultural sharing as we’ve already said, but there will also be opportunities for us to share our other interests, whether these are academic, sports based, food, music, dance and arts or anything else. This will be a safe place where everyone is welcome and we will design it together with that in mind. Young people are frequently heard complaining that there’s nothing to do and sometimes this results in negative behaviours, such as underage drinking and drug use out of boredom, lack of self esteem, peer pressure and other stresses. This project will work hard to reduce this by giving young people somewhere else to go, something to do and an increased feeling of self-worth and purpose.

We’ve learned a lot through community development work already and this project will increase our own experiences as well as sharing them throughout the community. We’ve worked with young men and women from across Derry and Strabane, from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds, as well as Muslim, Hindu and other religions, republican, nationalist, unionist and loyalist traditions, Filipino and Indian backgrounds, rural and urban communities and a range of very different opinions on everything. We hope to make the group even more inclusive and will be seeking to proactively include groups working on LGBT issues and disability.

Conclusion - Frankie

The Youth Hub is our specific Derry project, just like the Donemana group is hoping to develop a local gym as a social economy project and the Castlederg group is working on a film to change negative perceptions of the area and developing a range of activities for young people to manage out of their premises in Castlederg Connect. We’re hoping to continue to come together to tackle the policy issues we have identified. As Raviena said, Derry is quickly becoming much more multicultural and diverse and our generation doesn’t think about identity the same way that older generations from Derry did. That’s why what started as a good relations project quickly became a policy project. We learned very quickly that sectarianism and tribal politics, racism and issues that divide us were not a problem for us in the same way that they have been for people from Derry and Strabane who grew up during the conflict or even for our parents who moved here from other countries.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me or hear my accent, but I’m one of an increasing number of young people from Derry who has at least one parent who wasn’t born here and doesn’t identify as Irish or British and isn’t Christian.

I will get to vote next year for the first time, but there isn’t a party that reflects my views currently.

This is quickly becoming more common in our city and district, but the education system, the political situation, the residential segregation, like much else aren’t fit to deal with it. Peace IV is being developed at the minute. The first Peace programme started before I was born. Children and young people are a particular focus of Peace IV and we hope all the issues we’ve brought up in this presentation are included.

The other themes are Shared Spaces and Building Relationships. Youth Voices is a prime example of how these can come together and make a positive impact.

Our proposed Youth Hub is a prime example of this in practice. But as we have all said, the main issues are economic, not about good relations or peace. We hope that good relations and peace are here to stay. We, however, may not be here to stay. Many of us will leave Derry in the next few years and few of us will come back. The economic situation currently makes this a certainty.

In conclusion: Sectarianism is no longer an issue for our generation of young adults. “The future generations will be happily mixed;” Unemployment and the lack of local job opportunities are the biggest concerns for our age group at the moment; Many young people are being forced to emigrate against their wishes in order to seek employment or further education; Education and training opportunities need to be made available locally and tailored to meet the needs of the jobs market; Community facilities and resources should be shared, open and accessible for all; Working with different communities develops friendships, learning and knowledge of other cultures. Why isn’t this the norm like it is in most parts of the world?

There’s a need for more integrated education, integrated residential areas and shared services for all communities; We’ll be the first generation with fewer opportunities than our parents due to the economic situation.

This could be changed if budgets were spent on what really matters (education, employment, healthcare) and not on continuing to perpetuate a political situation, that no one our age relates to, and all the security, duplicated resources, and other unnecessary spending that accompanies it.