Ossory one of the best examples of youth work, says minister

Youth work’s time has come and Ossory Youth is very much leading the way, Children and Youth Affairs Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, has said. The role of youth workers has never been more important in communities right across the country and the service offered in Kilkenny is second to none, the Minister said as she visited Desart Hall where she launched Ossory Youth’s Strategic Plan on Friday night.

Youth work’s time has come and Ossory Youth is very much leading the way, Children and Youth Affairs Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, has said. The role of youth workers has never been more important in communities right across the country and the service offered in Kilkenny is second to none, the Minister said as she visited Desart Hall where she launched Ossory Youth’s Strategic Plan on Friday night.

“Ossory Youth is one of the best examples of youth work I’ve seen and has been leading the way since 1985. It is also very important to have young people on the board, as is the case here in Kilkenny. The Minister noted that “Ossory Youth has a vision which is set out very clearly in this strategic plan” and remarked that she was looking forward to working on that plan in whatever way she could. In her address, she told the audience that Ossory Youth “have been leaders in Kilkenny for many years and I know you will continue to be leaders.”

“This is such a lovely, warm and energetic place. You very quickly get the atmosphere of the place and its great energy. I’ve been shown the plans for the new building and I know your local representatives will help support the development you want here,” Minister Fitzgerald added.

The minister highlighted the “ten thing we know to be true” from the Strategic Plan, one of which was “that a cup of tea costs 13 cent, yet a conversation costs nothing”. But Environment Minister Phil Hogan quipped: “A conversation doesn’t cost nothing Minister Fitzgerald. That costs €1.5m,” he said, referring to the development of Desart hall outlined earlier in the evening. “During the duration of this five year plan for Ossory Youth I hope this can happen,” he said.

Seventeen year-old Ossory Youth board member Louise McKenna said her experiences there are too many to count and the fun involved has been immeasurable! She was one of several board members who made her case to the Minister to provide the centre with the €1.5m it needs for its new building project.

“I am really glad I became involved. I love the feeling that I am representing the youth and this gives me a great sense of achievement. Over the next few years I hope to bring a youthful perspective to the Board and to prove myself capable of the responsibilities involved.

“To say that my time here has been life changing is no exaggeration. The people I have met and become friends with have played a huge part in shaping who I am now and who I am becoming as a person,” Louise added.

Ossory Youth is ready to continue to be a leading light, provided it has the means to do the job it is good at, its CEO Mary Mescal said.

While the Kilkenny County Development Board recently highlighted “an inadequate provision of youth services” in Kilkenny, the development of Desart Hall Youth Centre by Ossory Youth is an integral part of an overall approach to address this and provide a major youth facility for young people in Kilkenny city, she said.

The voluntary youth work organisation, which has young people at its heart, provides the opportunities and environment where young people can grow, experience and learn. It does all of this through a shared commitment to and understanding of youth work, she explained.

The comprehensive roadmap for Ossory Youth outlines how it will journey with young people in a way that positively contributes to their lives and well-being. It also highlights how it will attract and support volunteers and enhance their time, energy and commitment so that there are sustained for the benefit of young people

The Strategic Plan also highlights how it will ensure that the organisation is equipped to meet current and future challenges in the youth work sector. “In talking to people now who have looked at our new plan, I’ve heard the words ‘creative’, ‘pragmatic’, ‘focused’, ‘youth centred’, ‘confident’ and ‘clear’ to describe it.

“If I was to describe the organisation as a whole, I think I couldn’t pick better adjectives. This suggests to me that the plan well reflects the current attitudes and beliefs of our young people, our volunteers and our staff.”

While resources are tight, Ossory Youth is well used to operating within such an environment, Mary Mescal added. “The current focus on logic model planning, value for money and demonstrating outcomes doesn’t faze us and in fact, we view everything up to now as being positive for our sector and we both welcome and feed off the challenge of continuing to develop our practice over the coming years.

“But if we don’t have the funding to have the right person in the right place at the right time or to attract volunteers, to work with agencies, to be effective in helping our most vulnerable young people in society, then we don’t have a service and we don’t have a plan.

“Over the past four years we have focused on developing how we work with young people and we have been challenged by robust and honest conversations with our partners, volunteers, young people and funders and honestly, I think our work is better for it.

“Last year, we made the decision to open up Desart Hall as a youth space and this has been strongly supported by our local Gardai. We have also been supported by the Gardai to develop a Mentoring Programme run by volunteers for young people. Without that support, it simply wouldn’t have been possible.

“The Borough Council has also been good to us, as is the HSE. Next year alone, we will create opportunities for an additional 150 young people. We will do this by focusing in no small way on the recruitment of 30 new volunteers to our existing base of 180, the reliance on continued local support and more efficient use of our resources,” Mary Mescal added.

Chairperson of the Ossory Youth Board, Padraig Fleming, commended Minister Fitzgerald for bringing the children’s rights referendum before the people on the 9th of November and welcomed the ‘yes’ vote.

“A Ministerial visit is a big thing for us, as your presence recognises the voluntary effort of our young people and volunteers and it gives us an opportunity to illustrate how the Government’s investment in our Service is being deployed and how we plan to move forward over the next five years with the launch of our Strategic Plan,” he said.