I’m passionate about Foróige and all it stands for and strives to achieve. I would love to see every young person in the country benefit from the organisation’s input in some capacity. I believe all our young people, regardless of class or culture, deserve the chance to avail of the opportunities that Foróige can give. As a Foróige Club Leader, I intend to work alongside my fellow leaders and Foróige management to help maintain the high standard of youth work that has been a hallmark of the organisation for over 60 years, and ensure that the needs of every young person in society are catered for to the highest level possible.
Believe it or not, I had barely heard of Foróige until about mid 2010. Around that time I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking of setting up a youth club in the community.
I work part-time in the local primary school and when the children finish 6th class, they have a choice of 6 secondary schools to choose from, between boys, girls and co-educational. This meant that once they left primary, many of them went their separate ways and there was no focal point in the community for them to meet up on a regular basis. This was one of the main reasons I felt there was a need there for a youth club. My friend asked me if I had considered Foróige. I went home and Googled and was very encouraged by what I found.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t until early 2011 that I started the ball rolling, when I came across the contact details of the county Regional Youth Officer (RYO), Joe-Anne O’Brien, in a local newspaper article. Fast forward to the present day and Mell Foróige Youth Club (FYC) in Drogheda is a thriving club of 40 young people meeting for 2 hours every Thursday evening, doing all sorts of different things, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that Foróige has literally changed my life. It has inspired me to enrol in a Youth Work course, and hopefully at some stage in the future I’ll be in a position work with young people on a professional basis.
Including myself, we have 8 leaders at the club; 3 male, 5 female. Each one of us mucks in with whatever has to be done although we all have our own little speciality, whether it be art, sport, music or otherwise related. We try to vary programs and activities as much as possible, but the most important thing is to respond to what the needs of the members are; there’s no point in trying to engage them in something that they have absolutely no interest in. That’s a lesson we have learnt over time and one well worth remembering. Then each week when we have our meeting, we always have a brief discussion on how they rate the previous week’s activity. These evaluations are a great help in deciding on whether or not we do it another time, or on how to improve the experience if there is a next time.
The club has become a focal point in the community for our young people; a safe, supervised environment where they can meet up and socialise on a weekly basis. They get the opportunity to try out a variety of different activities. In the past year, our members have learnt how to administer CPR, had self-defence and Taekwando classes and been given instruction on basic photography, among other things. We have also been visited and given talks by the local Community Garda, The Irish Wheelchair Association, the founder of SOSAD (a local charity that deals with suicide awareness among young people), St. John’s Ambulance and members of Drogheda River Rescue & Recovery. They have attended and hosted interclub discos, giving them the chance to meet up with and get to know young people from other Foróige Clubs in the region. For the past 2 years, they have marched proudly in the Drogheda St. Patrick’s day Parade, highlighting the organisations presence in the community.
Last Christmas, they formed a sub-committee and organized a Christmas party for all the children under 12 years old in the community. It was a huge success and the money raised was donated to the aforementioned SOSAD charity. As a community, we were so proud of them. It just goes to show what young people are capable of achieving when given the opportunity. Never was “empowering youth, enriching communities” more appropriate.
Along with my good friend and fellow leader Mary, I attended Foróige’s Club Leaders Conference in 2011 and it was a revelation to both of us. The goodwill that existed between all the volunteers, the excellent workshops, the information on all the different projects Foróige is involved in, all combined to convince us that we were part of something very exciting; something really worthwhile and something that helps shape a whole generation of young people and prepare them to be positive, confident and caring adults.
For anyone thinking of getting involved as a leader, or maybe starting a youth club in their community, I would say “go for it”. It will most definitely enrich your life, and certainly enrich the lives of many young people. The structure, support and training provided by Foróige is second to none, and your Regional Youth Officer (RYO) is never more than a phone call away.
On a personal level, there is no better feeling than when a member comes up and says “Thank you”. Or when you’re walking down the street and a voice shouts out from across the road “Hey Eamo…..see ya at the club tonight”. They don’t realise it, but these are the little things that make it all worthwhile.