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Exchange House Youth Service comes to the end of the year on a positive note

As the year begins to draw to a close that Christmas feeling begins to come alive.

With Christmas trees being decorated, carols being hummed in offices and the decision of which coloured tinsel to be hung, the Youth Service looks back on how successful their year was. The Youth Service in Exchange House offers a wide variety of developmental, educational and fun programmes to up to 200 young Travellers per term within our catchment areas. This year has been very busy and it has been both strenuous and rewarding for the youth service.

In January 2013 alongside our general youth programmes, began the preparation for our cross border community diversity football matches. These matches would run throughout the year in conjunction with the PSNI and An Garda Siochanna. They took place as part of the youth services continuous effort to break down barriers and strengthen communications with the young people and guards from North and South of Ireland.

Beginning in June our summer programmes ran for 6 weeks across St Margaret’s/Carton, Ballymun, Labre Park/Kylemore, Ballyfermot, St Oliver’s Park/Bridgeview, Clondalkin and inner city Dublin. The programmes were offered to all the young people we work with year round. Each programme was individually tailored to meet the needs of the group. These programmes provided fun and educational visits to places such as the exciting Dublinia, Leinster House, Clara Lara, National History Museum, Dublin Castle and the Viking Splash tour.

As part of our annual summer activities and following on from the success of last year, we incorporated a four day residential to Glendalough into our summer programmes. We brought 12 young people and the days were filled with fun in the woods, panning for gold, visiting the round tower in Glendalough and the ever popular wooden bridge were we get to drive through water.

In September the Youth service resumed their hectic school term schedules and the fun filled hot sunny days outside with the children seemed a distant memory. Visits and phone calls to schools, attendance figures gained and contact with parents to “check in” with how our Stay in School Project was progressing were in full flow.

It was business as usual, when Comhairle Na nOg resumed after the summer break. Comhairle Na nOg is a young people’s council made up of young people aged 12- 17. The council is about giving children and young people the opportunity to talk about local and citywide issues important to them and to also have their say in the future of the City in which they live. It is a way of making sure the voices of young people are heard. The young people who attend also have the opportunity to be elected to Dáil Na nOg which is when young people from all over the country who have been elected by other comhairle members take part in an event about a specific topic. It takes part in Croke Park and this year was entitled “Let’s Talk About Mental Health”. Exchange House was lucky to have 2 young people elected to attend.

The following months were filled with personal development programmes, healthy living programmes and group work with all 3 targeting mental health both directly and indirectly.From September to December we focused on the Stay in Schools programme we attended meetings with both schools and parents and acted as a support for parents and young people. We also provided supports to our afterschools in Clondalkin and Ballyfermot which are both now running to capacity. These supports included homework support, literacy, and links with schools/liaison officers and educational trips.

Looking back on 2013 despite the economic climate and the ongoing problems our young people face, which include poor accommodation, discrimination, unemployment, feuding and violence and suicide we are proud to have achieved our goals. We look forward to another successful year in 2014.

The Youth Service would like to thank all of our young people for their participation, input and enthusiasm in our programmes.

We would also like to thank our Board of Management and our funders.

We wish everyone a Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

Le gach Dea-Ghui i gcomhair Na Nollag is Na hath bhliana

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