Youth Work strives to be a sector of complete inclusivity and more often than not, the vast majority of such organisations make every effort to do their utmost to create such environments. This ethos is of huge importance given the ever diversifying population of Ireland as we see the increase in the number of ethnic minorities that are calling Ireland their home.
As part of the work carried out by Involve CLG (formerly, the National Association for Traveller Centres, NATC ) in delivering and improving youth services for the Traveller community, they have been allocated funding for a two year initiative called the STATUS Toolkit.
The rationale behind the initiative is to foster a welcoming and empowering social environment for young people from the Traveller community. This was borne from findings within a national attitudes survey carried out by Nexus Cooperative where it was found that some 64 percent of travellers felt as though there were significant barriers to their participation due to being treated much differently than their settled peers. This point, even if perceived, goes against the philosophy of many youth organisations. The organisations are aware of this, and as a result, Youth Work Ireland, Léargas and Youth Action NI have looked to Involve to roll out a new programme with the aim of eliminating this gap in service provision.
There is no doubt that youth work has incomparable value for all young people as involves them in their own community, builds self-esteem and self-confidence, offers new challenges, provides learning opportunities to develop new skills as well as employment prospects, the list goes on.
Speaking about the new project, Coordinator, John Madden said, “the project is still in its infancy and there’s a long road ahead to make this the success that it deserves to be. The appetite is most certainly there, and the response thus far has been very encouraging. It is about creating a better understanding, not about changing the rulebook, and hopefully, we can pave the way to give young travellers a better chance”.
Notably, some 52 percent of the entire traveller population of Ireland are under the age of 18 years. This figure alone accounts for approximately 18,000 of young people in Ireland. Involve wants to be instrumental in making that difference and hopefully, change and challenge many of the myths that abound society about the Traveller population of Ireland.