Lots of Young People, Endless Activities
While the weather disappointed at times, there was no shortage of fun and adventure here at the St John Bosco Youth Centre throughout Summer 2023. Fun, adventure, and self-discovery were the bedrock of our summer programme, achieved in abundance through an impressively diverse range of programmes and activities.
Getting underway the first week of June, our programme operated right up until the end of August. As the summer of 2023 came to an end, 128 young people aged 10 – 18 had participated in our 12-week summer initiative.
An important aspect of our service to young people is the consistent provision of a safe and inclusive space where conversation and fun are the primary objectives while also ensuring young people have the opportunity to check in with staff and request guidance and support if required. This structure was maintained throughout the summer period in the form of 26 drop-in sessions.
The final element of our summer programme initiative is the activities that come under our special events category. These one-off events were developed with the purpose of promoting inclusiveness and encouraging cross-community interaction. Our cultural evening with members of the Philippine community, participation in five-a-side soccer tournaments organised by Bluebell Youth Service and Rialto Youth Service, the organising of our own soccer tournament and the creation of our Football for All park mural created a great sense of inclusion and togetherness for all involved.
The first of our summer special events provided an evening of food, conversation and fun as we delighted in some beautiful Philippine Cuisine. Supported by the Philippine Consulate Dublin, one of the many diverse groups based within the St John Bosco Youth Centre, this event provided young people with an exciting opportunity to converse with members of the large Philippine community located throughout Drimnagh and beyond.
Our Philippine guests facilitated a cooking session before we all sat for scrumptious Philippine cuisine and plenty of interesting conversation. Our young people look forward to having our Philippine friends back soon for some traditional Irish scrum; we are thinking Coddle.
Hell & Back
While our Hell & Back challenge was part of our summer activities, we had been working with our Gforce fitness team prior to this event, as the key ingredient in navigating the hilly, muddy, and wet 8km course was fitness. Cited as Ireland’s toughest physical and mental endurance challenge, it was conquered Bosco style by our young people and staff. Once the ice pools, rivers of mud, tight ropes and electric shocks were overcome, our young people embraced their deserved sense of achievement.
Diversity and Inclusion Through Art
Encouraging young people to embrace diversity was one of the core themes running through this year’s summer programme. While summer programmes can be observed as a period of endless outings and
activities, it’s always the fundamental objective of the St John Bosco Youth Centre to keep the youth work identity of informal education at the core of our interaction with young people.
In the context of recent local and current national issues relating to diversity and inclusion, our youth service has been constantly exploring and implementing youth work approaches to challenging discrimination while encouraging attitudes that promote and embrace a spirit of diversity and inclusion.
This year’s summer programme included a number of planned sessions that would allow all participants to explore diversity and inclusion in the context of their own personal views and interactions and those of their broader community. Art as the medium for discussion and expression provided the perfect opportunity for young people to participate in a fun activity while articulating powerful concepts that promote and embrace diversity and inclusion.
The simple use of colour within doodle drawings provided our young people with a conversation-stimulating platform to discuss and define topics such as racism, homophobia, immigration, and diverse communities, as well as what a society that embraces economic equality would look like.
The use of abstract painting provided the space for an incredibly artistic and expressive process where young people explored the “Drimnagh Together” concept. Again, the use of colour really encouraged participants to communicate in an honest and compassionate manner, while the abstract approach unveiled a method of artistic expression without the pressure to produce what might be perceived as an acceptable artistic standard.
Our final art project of this year’s summer programme took us to Brickfield Park, where we refreshed one of our public mural spaces with a celebration of local integration and inclusiveness. The focus of the mural project was the “Football for All” initiative run by the St John Bosco Football Club. This programme provides football opportunities for young people with disabilities.
It was a fantastic opportunity for our young people to interact with the “Football for All” team in the planning and painting of the mural while, most importantly, recognising the value to young people and the wider community of initiatives that encourage and support inclusiveness.
Fun, adventure, and some time away from the storm and stress of everyday life are some of the benefits of our residential programmes. Intrinsically woven into our structured group work, these residentials also provide an incentive–reward structure that encourages active and consistent participation.
This year’s summer programme included four residential trips. We headed to Cavan with our senior young women’s group in June for an activity-packed four days. Activities included adventure sports at the Cavan Adventure Centre, walking the Stairway to Heaven and a personal boundaries workshop that also included mask-making and abstract art.
We were back on the road a week later, this time with our young men’s senior group for a couple of days in the wilderness. In the weeks leading up to this outdoor adventure, the group had been participating in a bushcraft programme facilitated by our youth worker, Warren. Camping was the method of accommodation, and our tents were kindly financed by our local Senator, Mary Seery Kearney. Lough Dan, Co Wicklow, was the location for our expedition, a great facility that provided water sports activities, a cooking and BBQ area and a multitude of wildlife encounters, including regular visits from the local deer population. One of the trip’s highlights was using our bird song identifier app while walking in the Wicklow mountains.
Next up was our July residential, which involved our younger Droichead participants who had waited patiently for their much-anticipated trip to Cavan. Again, we immersed ourselves in four days of fun activities, including water activities, evening walks, and BBQs, but unfortunately, we failed to reach the top of Stairway to Heaven thanks to a thunder and lightning storm.
For our first three residential trips, we also maintained our centre-based activities as our project leader, plus one youth worker facilitated the residentials while the remaining youth worker facilitated our centre-based programme with the assistance of our sessional youth worker, Stacey.
The close-out activity of our summer programme was our third and final residential of the summer, which saw us return to Cavan for another four days of fun and adventure. From a staffing perspective, it was all hands on deck as we combined our junior groups for this trip. Participants enjoyed another amazing four days of activities, and the good weather ensured that we would complete our Stairway to Heaven adventure this time.
Out & About
Regular day trips and outings were also an important aspect of our summer programme and provided endless amounts of fun and adventure. These activities took us to Bray Head, Wicklow Mountains, evening coast walks, Hellfire Club, Footee Golf, Aquatic Centre, Bowling, and Cinema.
An exciting addition to this year’s programme was the Kayaking and Waterboard Paddling sessions that were literally on our doorstep. In partnership with Waterways Ireland, Dublin City Council provided several water sports sessions delivered on the Grand Canal, directly across from the centre. We had fantastic attendance at all sessions provided to our service and hope this initiative can be continued.
We had super representation at the two summer soccer tournaments, which were hosted by Bluebell Youth Service and Rialto Youth Service. In August, we organised our own tournament in Brickfield Park with the support of the St John Bosco Football Club. We had a fantastic turnout from youth services across the city who participated in the day-long event.
The relentless energy and range of activities delivered throughout the twelve weeks of our summer programme clearly indicate the passion and commitment of our youth work team. What makes our overall service provision all the more impressive is that the St John Bosco Youth Centre has one of Dublin’s smallest youth work teams.
In leaving the best until last, our young Droichead participants experienced a magical couple of days participating in a music and dance programme designed and delivered by Abbey McCann, a member of our young women’s senior group. It was such an inspirational process to watch one of our youth work programme participants step into such an influential role, sharing their skills through facilitation.