24 June 2020
By Mary Bermingham
Youth workers continue to play a huge role in Cork City Community Response Forum and the staff of Youth Work Ireland Cork (YWIC), based out of “The Hut” in Gurranabraher, have been working hard throughout the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that local young people’s wellbeing isn’t adversely affected by reduced social interaction.
Joe Curtin, Youth Worker with YWIC, sits on the local Covid-19 response team for the Gurranabraher area and says that this has helped him to identify where specific needs in the area lie.
He says, “A lot of young peoples’ time before the coronavirus, was taken up with school, youth groups, training – all very social activities. Many young people also used these activities to help cope with stress, anger, and anxiety. With these activities halted, we were concerned about a serious knock on effect on young people’s mental health”.
In response, Youth Work Ireland Cork have moved their youth services online with approximately 70 young people engaging overall per week.
These services include:
Creative writing groups;
Leadership training sessions;
It also includes the essential ongoing supports for young people and families dealing with addiction. Theresa Spillane, Drugs Worker, continues to provide vital support for her clients daily through phone calls and she also supports the HSE/Cork Local Drugs & Alcohol Task Force response team.
Dedicated Music Generation Cork City and Cork Education Training Board (CETB) tutors, working with YWIC youth workers, have established new and unique ways to keep the young people engaging by using apps such as ‘Sound Trap’, ‘Map my Fitness’ and ‘Kahoots’, as well as keeping all the music and art youth groups going through their weekly online meet ups. YWIC run a variety of other online youth groups throughout the week including soccer, teen gym, art, youth cafes.
Not everything is done online, however. Sinead Hurley, an administrator with YWIC, put together hundreds of art activity packs that included puzzles, COVID-19 Time Capsule and colouring sheets for young people in the community, homeless young people and young people in Direct Provision Centres. She also created ‘seed packs’ that contained sunflower seeds so young people could grow from home. These were posted out to and dropped off to over 170 young people around Cork City.
All the young people who are part of the YWIC service are continually offered support, challenges, a place and people to connect with throughout COVID-19. Eleanor O’ Sullivan, Director of Services of YWIC says, “Young people have risen to the challenge of social distancing, have shown resilience and have continued to engage with our youth workers throughout, this is evident in the amount of youth participation in all our activities. We look forward to the day when we can have face to face interaction with all our members, as I’m sure everyone else does.”