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Minister listens to the young unemployed

 

On 5th September Dr Stephen Farry, Minister for Department of Employment and Learning, presented hard earned certificates of achievement to ten young men from Derry city and East Belfast.  The young men presented their search for solutions to stubborn challenges of unemployment, poverty, marginalisation and neighbourhood conflict.

Initiated by the Concensus Initiative of the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre in partnership with the Rosemount Resource Centre and supported by the European Union’s PEACE III programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, the pilot project successfully involved young people aged 16-24 in getting beneath sensationalist headlines of youth criminality and unemployment. With remarkable openness and honesty they met across the sectarian divide to unveil very personal experiences of frustration with education, of the cycle of boredom and the despair facing countless of their peers when unemployed.   This environment breeds an often dangerous attachment to alcohol, drugs, and gambling in neighbourhoods displaying the highest deprivation figures in the north and where vigilantism is common to their lives.  One participant stated, “you are much more likely to come across another off licence or bookmakers than an opportunity to turn things around”. 

Not only did the group share the extent of challenges facing young people in a project that combined high energy outdoor activity with deep reflective exercises on their own lives and community; the group spent hours working through possible solutions that, if pioneered, could assist in breaking a cycle that is wasting the lives of so many of their friends and other young people in this time of recession. Brian Garvey, Development and Training Officer at the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre commented that “Many of the participants are now progressing onto training and employment and also wish to assist in communities where they have been previously rejected and use their experiences to encourage younger ones growing up in the same area and into the same lifestyle into more productive activity.”  Tommy McCourt, Manager of Rosemount Resource Centre, affirmed,  “We encourage this type of programme as there are people within communities who can identify the people who can most benefit and communities need  the resources to provide much needed alternatives and the support required.”

Joe Bowers, Chair of Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre stated that “Unemployment levels are crippling young people and it is imperative that their issues are considered and responded to adequately.”

The young men enjoyed and appreciated this opportunity to meet the minister for a sincere discussion on these important issues and to shine a light on their accomplishments that symbolise much needed hope for the generation coming through.

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