Youthscape launched in 2018 as a programme to empower 14-24 year olds who are most marginalised in Fermanagh, Tyrone and Donegal.
The programme was awarded almost €4 million of EU Peace IV funding under the Children and Young People’s strand by the Special EU Programmes Body. With this funding, South West College, Donegal Youth Service and TIDES Training and Mediation pooled their resources and specialist knowledge to design and create a programme that has seen 635 young people completing so far.
Youthscape’s mission is to empower young people with skills for personal development, citizenship and good relations. Participating on the 6-month programme enables them to set personal goals, socialise with peers from different communities, and receive tailored support to address their barriers.
Before the pandemic
Pre-Covid-19, from 2018 to March 2020, almost 300 young people completed Youthscape. A typical week involved 3 days of group trips, learning for OCN Level 1 in Vocational Studies using informal teaching styles and one to one mentoring in person with a dedicated Youth Worker.
Each group had an opportunity to design and implement a social impact project, and at the end of every cohort’s 6 months, a large Celebration of Success was held when all the participants came together from Letterkenny, Ballybofey, Enniskillen, Omagh and Dungannon areas. The Youthscape Youth Forum (made up of young people) met monthly to feed into the programme activities and discuss the issues affecting them.
Sarah, a past participant, recalls, “I learnt more about myself as well as other religions, beliefs and other communities. At the start, I had lacked self-esteem and confidence, and Youthscape helped me be more confident in myself and to speak out to be heard”.
Youthscape in Lockdown
After the pandemic changed the world as we knew it, Youthscape quickly adapted to online activities to connect with young people and keep vital services running.
The effects of social isolation and anxiety became evident as 37% of our young people noted that their mental health was affected. Youthscape staff responded by implementing more frequent one-to-one calls, a variety of contact methods, a dedicated health and well-being facilitator and fun online activities to suit all interests.
Groupwork used the medium of Zoom and other technologies, and virtual trips went online. Youthscape Radio and The Youthscape Podcast were launched, giving participants a creative outlet. Games nights, movie nights, beauty and fitness tutorials all feature now in the programme, keeping young people engaged and connected. Youthscape Celebration of Success for each group has become even more creative, despite being on Zoom!
Since March 2020, a further 342 young people have completed, with one group halfway through the programme and recruitment for the final group in this funding stream underway.
As the world cautiously resumes mixed gatherings, Youthscape have now adapted a blended approach of some online learning, and smaller group face-to-face and outdoor work. With the last Youthscape group of the programme due to start in October 2021, optimism is growing for the resumption of group trips.
A lasting impact on young people
To date, 62% of young people have been able to rejoin mainstream education or further their education at college or university after completing Youthscape. In addition, 11% have went into employment, with a further 17% joining another specialist programme (e.g. employability) to continue the work to help them achieve their goals.
Ongoing independent monitoring by Queens University (using Times Surveys completed by young people whilst on the programme) has found that the benefits of being on Youthscape and similar Peace IV programmes in other geographical areas have included increased respect for diversity, a more positive attitude towards minority ethnic groups and other communities, more self-esteem, more resilience and self-awareness, willingness to engage in positive help-seeking behaviours, more civic engagement and participation and support for peacebuilding.
Rachel from Cohort 6 sums up her experience – “Before I joined, I just didn’t want to meet new people, go into new places and new surroundings that I wasn’t used to. During the Youthscape programme, everyone was really helpful, really friendly; I made a new friend the first day. It really helped with my confidence, they even helped me apply for college, and now after Youthscape, I’m in college, doing Childcare, which is one of the things I wanted to do since I was young.”
For further information and to apply, please visit www.swc.ac.uk