Foróige young people take part in a Hong Kong-Ireland Youth Exchange Programme

Foróige-Notinuse's picture
Foróige-Notinuse September 16, 2013

8 young Irish people and 3 adult volunteers from the Foróige Mahon Youth Project in Cork were selected to participate in a Hong Kong- Ireland Youth Exchange Programme this summer. The exchange was co-sponsored by EIL and by the Hong Kong Commission on Youth.

The Irish group left Ireland on Monday 29th of July to visit Hong Kong for 10 days, offering them a chance to broaden their horizons, to learn more about themselves and promote tolerance and understanding of a new and exciting culture. They were met by 10 young people from Hong Kong who for the next 8 days shared their homes, lives and culture with the Mahon young people. The exchange was a mechanism that helped develop relationships with the local community and beyond. They visited a tradtional fishing village called Tai O. They were able to wander the fish markets, visit the temples and watch traditional food being prepared and cooked.

The visit to the social housing was very interesting and a life lesson. It is so small and dangerous that I fear for the people in the top floors. It was great to get to know peoples background who lived in these rooms. An experience I will never forget. It made me realise how lucky we really are!” Natasha, Mahon Youth Project. The group also visited Dialogue in the Dark, an experience for the senses. For one hour they were blinded and given a cane. They could hear, listen to instructions and feel their way around with the cane and use their hands but they were in complete darkness. They even had to buy drinks in a café. Recognising the coins was really difficult as was finding a chair to sit down in without sitting on top of someone!

Before the group returned to Ireland, they gave a cultural preformance to their hosts by providing historical acounts of the Irish language and politics. They even gave lessons in Irish dancing. You can see the Tumblr account the young people created to help document their experiences
On the 23rd of August the Hong Kong group arrived in Ireland and it was our turn to share our country and culture. We had a busy itinerary which included a community welcoming dinner in Mahon. Members of our youth club prepared a full 3 course dinner and then facilitated a workshop in Positive Mental Health. We gave the Hong Kong guests a full tour of Mahon and they got to watch Ringmahon Rangers play a match. They were welcomed into the homes of the young people from Mahon where they met family members, played huring, ate food together and learned about Irish home life.

Other activities during the week included hillwalking in Killarney National Park, kissing the Blarney Stone, community volunteering in St Lukes Home for the elderly, a cultural performance with the 4th Year students in the Ursuline Convent, a music night in the YMCA, a tour of University College Cork, a visit to City Hall to visit the deputy Lord Mayor, kyacking in Garretstown and more.

The Mahon Youth Project, our volunteers, the community and families of the young people have wonderful accounts of the young people they met from Hong Kong. This trip will have gone a long way in culturally enriching our lives, challenging prejudices, building relationships and knowing more about ourselves . Thank you E.I.L. and Foróige for this wonderful opportuntity.

- Denise Cahalane, Youth Worker