They say some heroes don’t wear capes. For many youngsters, the team at Farronshoneen
Community Youth Centre, located just off the Dunmore Road proved to be just that during Covid –
providing an essential lifeline for dozens of young people devastated by the past two years of
lockdowns and restrictions.
Somehow, in the most restrictive of circumstances, youth workers at the centre managed to
continue to provide a service to their young clients, many of whom felt isolated, lonely and adrift.
They listened and engaged, giving a safe space, albeit through Zoom or phone calls to these youths,
providing them with much needed social interaction and a kind and non judgemental listening ear.
Farronshoneen Community Youth Project is one of Waterford’s hidden local gems that does
outstanding work within the community, without fanfare. The project engages with young people
from the ages of 10-24 living within the Dunmore Road area of the city.
They provide young people with the opportunity to participate in positive, worthwhile recreational
based activities and educational based programmes based on the identified needs and issues of the
young people in the area.
Catriona Ryan and Carrie Roberts are both youth leaders at the centre and part of a team of four,
along with Louise Brennan and Dawn Torma. Covid, they say has had a massive impact on the young
people attending their projects. They themselves however are under pressure as well as like many
other businesses, they are under-resourced and in dire need of adult volunteers.
“We had a really robust volunteer team for a long time at the centre but Covid seems to have
depleted it,” explains Catriona. “There are other reasons too, of course, people move on, get other
jobs, nowadays people have so many other commitments, they just don’t have the time to give.”
At the moment, they are looking for volunteers to commit to two and half hours a week. They’re
keen to encourage third level students wishing to pursue a career in youth work as well.
“Volunteering stands to you because if you’ve just come out of college, you can put it on your CV
and experience is essential when it comes to professional youth work. It is also a really good way of
finding out if this is really the career for you” explains Catriona.
“With social care you have that bonus of it opening a number of doors. It’s so broad, you could work
with homelessness, with youth, with disabilities, residential and then there are work placements as
part of those courses. It’s 12 weeks of work experience, to find out if this is what you really want.”
The centre is long established having received funding in 2007 for the current building. There are
now two youth projects operating out of the centre – The Farronshoneen Youth Centre Project and
the Community Youth Project which cover different catchment areas.
The centre has paid professional youth workers who are supported by volunteers from within the
local community. “We are quite purposeful in the work we do. We work with groups of young
people. We organise them within targeted age brackets and everything we do is in consultation with
those young people, based on their needs and interests,” says Catriona.
Despite or perhaps because of restrictions, the team were busier than ever during Covid. “We got
busier during Covid. Our projects were lucky in so far as, most of the families here had the means for
the kids to go online, many others didn’t. We had a huge amount of young people engage during
covid. We saw with our own eyes what they were facing,” says Carrie.
The issues they dealt with were varied says Catriona. “Many of them were suffering from isolation,
particularly for young people that were used to going out socialising and all of a sudden they
couldn’t go outside the front door and all contact was online. Then they were doing school work
online. That impacted them massively. The third lockdown was particularly hard, when all schools
went online and they were trying to keep themselves focussed and on top of their school work. Then
they were going back online to link up with us or their friends. Their whole sleep pattern went out
the window. Their whole lives were confined to their bedrooms.”
Lack of privacy was also a problem. “When we’d be checking on them, if their parents were in ear
shot we weren’t getting a real sense of how they were and how their mental health was. It was just a
very difficult time.”
The repercussions on young people’s mental health will be seen for a long time to come, they
maintain. “There are kids who did well and came out of Covid relatively unscathed but are now
presenting with the after effects of that period of time.”
“And we have to remember as well, some of them lost people during that time, they’re coming back
to normal life as we know it but they haven’t been able to grieve, haven’t been able to say goodbye
to their loved ones. There’s a huge amount of fallout,” adds Carrie.
With increased demands on the projects, the centre are currently seeking volunteers to give up 2
and a half hours of their time a week to help out with the various groups of young people. “The
groups are an hour and a half so the half an hour before and after are used to sit down and go
through the plan and what you’re going to be doing and talk about what came up the week before
or what needs to improve on and change. Then afterwards you have an evaluation about how you
think the session went.”
They can’t overstate how rewarding the work is, they say. “It is really rewarding work and people
don’t see it sometimes. It’s amazing for us to have the support of volunteers but it’s also amazing for
the young people because they get more of a diverse leader team. Because it’s not just a youth
worker, it’s someone living in the local community who may know the challenges they are facing.
The young person gets to experience different perspectives. And as a volunteer you are giving back
to the community and developing skills. And it is so much fun!”
For anyone interested in volunteering, please contact Catriona at the Farronshoneen Community
Youth Centre on 0830106257.