Lee Kinsella talks about his Foróige Experience

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Foróige February 27, 2013

“Thanks to Foróige, I’ve completely turned my life around. One of the lads I used to hang out with is in prison at the moment; one of them is going to prison next month. If I had stayed on the path I was on, I would have been in prison now. Today, I volunteer at the Foróige WAY Project and mentor young teenagers who are where I was four years ago. It’s easier for them to look up to someone their own age and I hope they’ll learn from my experience. I was also chosen as one of Coca Cola’s Future Flames because of my contribution to my community so I got to carry the Olympic Torch in Summer 2012. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity...unbelievable!”

Foróige has created chances for me I would have never gotten before – the only time I would have been on the telly without it would be if I was in court or something.

Before I got involved in the WAY Garda Youth Diversion Project I was going around getting drunk, causing trouble and trying drugs. I was getting into bother with my friends and then thinking I was cool because of it. This all started when I was 14. I was staying out late and when you start hanging round the streets bored, the only bit of a laugh you can get is from causing trouble, so that’s what I did. Things kept getting worse and I kept getting into hassle with the Gardaí. My Ma was in an awful way at one stage because I was literally coming in at all hours. She didn’t know what to do with me or where to turn. It was worse when she heard something in work, like someone saying ‘I saw your son at 2.30 in the morning doing this or doing that’. It had to have been hard.

The turning point came when I was referred to the Foróige WAY Project. It took me a while to cop on to myself but they supported me all the way. One of the lads I used to hang out with is in prison at the moment; one of them is going to prison next month. If I had stayed on the path I was on, I’d be in prison now. I’m lucky I suppose, I got a chance and I’ve turned my life around. I left school at 16 – a stupid move I admit – so I don’t have my Leaving Certificate but now I’ve started doing it. I’m also getting qualifications through Foróige. I’m doing an ECDL course and completing the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Programme. There are not an awful lot of people who can say they’ve been awarded an NUI Galway Certificate without their Leaving Cert. It’s things like that that make Foróige brilliant.

Today, I volunteer at the WAY Project and mentor young teenagers who are where I was four years ago. It’s easier for them to look up to someone their own age and I hope they’ll learn from my experience. The best thing for me now though is that my Ma will come home from work and say this person was talking about you and all the good things you’ve done – she’s so proud. It’s cool to see that your Ma is so happy because people are saying these types of nice things about you.