Two HSE supported intercultural groups in Castlebar and Kiltimagh have succeeded in bringing young people of several nationalities together in a spirit of discovery and harmony. The groups, which were established by the HSE funded Neighbourhood Youth Projects in Kiltimagh and Castlebar, are attended by young local people, as well as young people originally from Burma, South Africa, Rwanda, Iraq, Nigeria, Poland and America, who have now settled in Co. Mayo.
The concept of the intercultural group came from Stephen Bourke, Project Worker with the HSE-funded Neighbourhood Youth Project in Castlebar, who says that the idea behind the groups is to give young people an opportunity to interact with and learn about other cultures in a fun and safe environment.
Up to 26 young people in Casltebar and 12 young people in Kiltimagh, who are based at the Direct Provision Centre, attend the weekly group sessions to engage in activities such as bowling, art, interactive games, dance workshops and clay sculpting. During these weekly interactions, the young people from diverse nationalities are being inspired by one another, as well as gaining an appreciation of other cultures and ways of life.
Stephen Bourke says: It is important that when people come into our country, especially young people, they are made to feel welcome. Not only are these young people facing language difficulties, but they also have to cope with making new friends, going to new schools, and learning about new cultures and customs.
There are many issues that are specific to young people when they come to live in a new country, and the intercultural groups are designed to help them come to terms with and embrace the new challenges that are facing them in an interactive and healthy environment. A lot of the young people who are members of the intercultural groups are from Burma, and before coming to Ireland they lived in an isolated camp on the border of Thailand, as casualties of the Burmese regime. They have now settled in various towns in Co. Mayo under a UN refugee resettlement programme.
Stephaine Cooke, Project Worker with the NYP in Ballina, says: As we progress, we would like to incorporate intercultural work into all our group sessions, as it is proving to be a very effective and rewarding way of bringing young people from many nationalities together. All of these young people are getting the opportunity to interact with one another in a safe and enjoyable environment, and this is helping them to get to know about one another's cultures in a meaningful way.
The Foróige Neighbourhood Youth Project in Mayo, which is funded by HSE West under its Family Support Services, is a community based youth development and family support service working with young people aged between 10 and 18 and their families. Through participation in the NYP, young people have an opportunity to develop to their full potential through participation in solutions to their own problems.
Further information: Mary Garvin, HSE West Communications: Phone 091 77 5474
Last updated on: 12 / 04 / 2008