It’s that time of the year where I (along with my husband and co-conspirators) start to plan the Summer Project in our community. That means that I’m taking a harder look than normal at what’s available around here for youth, what they can do, how they play or hang around (if they’re older) and what we can offer.
There is, relatively speaking, very little funding out there for volunteer-run youth groups to make a difference in their communities in Ireland. In comparison, there is more funding for youth services, early intervention and working with children at risk. This creates a two-tier system of youth activities in some areas.
A child who comes to the attention of the Gardaí might be assigned a Social Worker and receive a lot of attention in an effort to divert their energies from anti-social behaviour. In real terms this means they are coached along, given opportunities, money and time is invested in them and they are encouraged to “take the right path”.
In comparison a child living next door who doesn’t come to the attention of the Gardaí receives little or nothing.
As humans, we thrive on boundaries. Children love knowing the difference between right and wrong. As they grow up, they learn that doing something wrong generally has a negative consequence, and right a positive consequence. It’s easy to reward or punish, especially when children are younger, when you have defined boundaries.
What do you do with a young adult?
How do you explain to them that despite the fact that “Tommy” next door committed a crime, he is being treated to a trip to the circus with his social worker, or a new bike?
What rewards are there for young adults who behave well in society in comparison to those who don’t?
As volunteers, we’re left with a choice. Do we join the well-funded services for those who misbehave and not have to struggle or scrape to get by as a group, or do we continue down the road we are on?
Instinctively I would rather be involved with all the youth in the area and treat them as equals. That’s not going to happen though because despite the group being open to all no matter what the background, participants are naturally going to gravitate to where they will benefit most.
For us it’s not too hard a choice to make. We believe that some service, even on a shoestring is better than none at all. So we’re back to beginning from nothing as every year. We’ll apply for funding to assist the Summer Project from the Local Authority and the VEC (Vocational Educational Committee). If we succeed it’ll make things a little easier but the project will go ahead regardless.
Are you involved in volunteering with youth?
Do your children attend or have they attended a Summer Project?
Do you have any memories from years ago? I’d love to hear them!