Before lockdown the New Lodge Youth Centre had 50 participants in the START Programme engaging in a range of different ways. Group work, one to one Mentoring, International Leadership Programmes, Youth Justice Diversionary Programmes, Mentoring through Trinity College and Outreach work. With the restrictions of lockdown a lot of these engagements were impossible to continue in their usual way, however we have reverted a new online only way of working and worked on maintaining the relationships with young people. In a range of ways.
We created an online profile which enabled us to continue the vital one to one sessions and to offer support for those at risk young people and their families who take part in the programme. The continuous engagement meant that young people who were completing the Youth Diversionary Programme were able to finish the required hours and be signed off from the programme with the Youth Justice Agency. The online profile gave us the opportunity to facilitate zoom meetings with the regular groups and to create an environment online as close to the in centre activity as we can. On a weekly basis we are facilitating Quizzes, Bingo nights and even setting challenges remotely through Kahoot!
Throughout lockdown we have also been actively delivering food parcels to families that have reached out for support during lockdown. Along with local food banks and by communicating with parents we have been able to gather as much food resources as I can before delivering them to the houses and offering much needed support to those at a very challenging time.
On a normal Friday night before Lockdown we would typically facilitate a life skills programme with young people from the START Programme. The aim was to develop valuable life skills on preparing, cooking and presenting food for all young people using the building on that night. Throughout lockdown we have been creating ‘How to’ tutorials and setting cooking challenges to encourage the young people to cook a nutritional, convenient and cheap meal for the family. This online programme has had lots of great feedback and has been very successful.
The lockdown has also provided the opportunity for upskilling and development. Alongside other START workers, our START worker Ryan has completed ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Training, Refreshment of The Circle of Courage, Mental Health and Resilience Training and online tutorials.
We are continuing to provide much needed support to the young people and families that we work with and will continue to do so and adapt to the ever changing environment as government guidelines progress over the coming months.