Over the last year it became increasingly clear, from youth workers on the ground that we were facing into a time like no other. Not only were young people suffering in greater numbers: disengaging from education and school, presenting with social anxiety and other mental health issues, their youth workers were also predicting grave long term effects – a generational timebomb.
It was clear, that to catch this, and provide immediate solutions, the situation needed to be fully understood, and these young people needed to be heard.
In June we commissioned our Generation Pandemic Report in which we surveyed and spoke to hundreds of youth workers and young people about what the pandemic had meant for them. In order to quantify the effects and to provide effective solutions.
The results were alarming. Youth workers unearthed the scale of this generational timebomb, with thousands of vulnerable young people slipping through the cracks. Despite this. Young people themselves had not been heard from nationally.
They needed the space to tell their own stories. That’s why we released A Stitch in Time. A documentary series which saw Other Voices presenter and musician MayKay travel across Ireland to hear directly from young people and their youth workers about what the pandemic has meant for them, and the worrying long-term effects. To let them speak on their own terms.
During the series, we met incredible young people such as Fardin, who arrived in Ireland from Afghanistan shortly before the pandemic. With no English when he arrived and no network to turn to, the pandemic and its ensuing lockdowns posed a great challenge to Fardin. Yet with the help of an incredible group of youth workers he has taken on English lessons and will soon begin a course in business and IT. Most importantly, he has become connected to his community, working a part time job there and playing Gaelic football (something which would not have been possible without a youth worker realizing that he needed a pair of football boots and kindly bringing them to his door, unasked).
And Kian, an 18-year-old student from Southill in Limerick who thrives on structure and routine. He admits that when that structure was taken away, he felt lost, and had no interest in online school. But again, he had the solutions within him. Steered by his youth workers he began to build a routine again in his life, found a part-time job, and he is focused again on school and sports.
Or Braxton, who suffered unimaginable loss during the pandemic, losing both his grandfather and uncle – his two father figures. Dealing with grief he left school. Braxton speaks of the constant presence of the youth centre in his life and how it kept him on the right track. Despite leaving school he has ambitions for the future, and gives back to the youth centre by helping with the younger children there.
Given the space to tell their stories the young people spoke honestly of the devastation of the pandemic on their lives. They missed important milestones, months of education, and countless opportunities to grow. Without fail they also spoke of their dreams and ambitions for the future. Their determination to achieve them. And the obstacles in their way.
The series showed up close the incredible efforts made by youth workers up and down the country. We were thrilled to be able to highlight the amazing work happening around the country, that could only happen because of your incredible support.
A WHILE AGO I WAS IN THE HALL AND I TOLD LEAH [HER YOUTH WORKER] SOMETHING MY FRIENDS DON’T EVEN KNOW
IT WAS LIKE THE END OF OUR CHILDHOOD
AS A TRAVELLER YOU DON’T GET MANY OPPORTUNITIES LIKE THAT. ONCE YOU LEAVE SCHOOL NOBODY WILL COME AFTER YOU
I USED TO TALK TO ANYBODY. I COULD WALK UP AND JUST START A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE SKY BEING BLUE. NOW WHEN I WALK UP TO SOMEONE IT TAKES ME ABOUT TEN MINUTES TO START A CONVERSATION
WHEN I WENT BACK [TO SCHOOL] I NOTICED IT. I’D JUST SIT THERE AND WOULDN’T DO ANYTHING. AND WAIT FOR THE BELL TO GO
I KNOW I AM CAPABLE, I CAN HAGGLE AND I’VE A GOOD HEAD ON MY SHOULDERS, BUT IF I DON’T GET AWAY FROM HERE, I’LL BE STUCK. I’VE SEEN SO MUCH DRUGS AND VIOLENCE; I WANT MORE FOR MY LIFE
IF I DIDN’T GO TO THE YOUTH CENTRE I’D PROBABLY BE ON THE DOLE
Sharing thoughts and feelings like these are difficult – not least for younger people. Yet throughout the A Stitch in Time series a group of young people came forward to tell their stories. Bravely, openly, and honestly. They have spoken through the news, on the radio, and through the print media.
They were speaking to all of us. They knew they represented their peers across the country. We’re proud to get behind such an incredible group of young people.
All they need is the fair chance to succeed. Your support means we have been able to get behind so many more.
Across the year young people and their youth workers were given the opportunity to tell their stories directly in the national media. To highlight the struggles young people have faced, and to give a voice to an unheard group.
Some examples include a discussion on Today with Claire Byrne with young person Ellen, her youth worker Declan.
A piece by Ailbhe Conneely for RTÉ News and Morning Ireland which gave the young people at the Just Ask Homework After School Club a chance to give their perspective the effects of the pandemic on their lives. And a piece in the Irish Times by Peter McGuire which gave a platform to young people from across the country including Kian, Chloe and Olivia).
Read and listen back to their stories at www.iyf.ie/news/
BEYOND THE CHARTS AND GRAPHS
POWERED BY YOU
Do you have what it takes to become an Irish Youth Foundation Gladiator?
We’re looking for 50 Gladiators to cycle from Milan to Rome in aid of The Irish Youth Foundation. Join our peloton and cycle from Milan to Rome while raising funds for The Irish Youth Foundation. We will be passing through the iconic cities of Parma, Pisa, Florence and Sienna en route. Saturday 24th September to Saturday 1st October 2022. More details available in January from our website. If you would like more information contact email@example.com.
Join our Fellowship programme for targeted backing of brilliant young people.
Details to be released in January.