YOUTH Release is a non-profit organisation which was established by sisters Niamh and Laura Power from Kilmeaden.
Since Youth Release was founded in 2007, The Munster Express has reported on the remarkable progress which Niamh and Laura have made through their admirable work in Ethiopia.
Youth Release was set up in response to the dire poverty that thousands of children endure in Ethiopia.
And since its formation, the charity has made significant progress including the establishment of a youth centre for disadvantaged youths which has become a focal point of the Genda Tesfa community.
The youth centre provides educational support, youth outreach, and social support to orphaned and vulnerable children.
In addition to this, Youth Release recently commenced a microcredit programme for fifty parents of the Youth Centre’s children which provides them with a small loan to set up their own business.
The aim of this project is to make local families more financially secure.
Youth Release has also operated vocational training programmes for 56 street children.
These programmes have given the street kids an opportunity to learn a trade such as carpentry, mechanics and hairdressing.
Youth Release is entirely run by volunteers such as Niamh and Laura, with no administration costs involved.
Both Niamh and Laura have vast experience in charitable work and are certainly great ambassadors for the Déise through their fantastic work in Ethiopia.
Niamh chaired the Dublin City University (DCU) St Vincent de Paul (SVP) Society for two years, and during this time she established a soup run for the city’s homeless and worked as a youth worker with vulnerable youths.
She also worked on volunteer projects in Ethiopia and Zambia before conceiving the idea for Youth Release.
Laura also chaired the DCU SVP Society and coordinated a tutor programme for disadvantaged children in the city.
“We want to sincerely thank all our volunteers past and present for their time and energy as they are the heart of what we do,” said Laura.
So, what is the typical day of a Youth Release volunteer in Ethiopia?
According to Laura: “We wake at around 8am, or if you’re Shelly and still maintaining fitness for camogie season, you rise a little earlier and take to the streets for a brisk run! Clare generally gets the Flahavans on the stove, a skill she has perfected over years of work in a local nursing home. Our bus arrives at 9.30am but we usually convene on the street at around ten past so we can have a buna (coffee) with the locals. We sit on paint cans sipping the freshly roasted brew until our lift arrives.
The centre is a ten minute drive from where we are staying. As soon as we reach the top of the dirt road into Gende Tesfa the shouting begins, “FERENGI! FERENGI!” which means “The foreigners are here”. The children spread the word! Sprinting after our van, numbers grow as we pass each dwelling, the destination is known by all.
Exiting the van is a struggle as the kids jump on board, eager to welcome us after the long withdrawal from our last encounter. We finally make it inside the compound and greet Abbi, Meahdar, Misera and Nebe; the full time social workers who run the centre.
Our activities change daily and span over areas such as English, geography, art, music, storytelling, debate, health education and sport. We keep the kids busy.
Needless to say by the time we leave in the evening we are wrecked! Not the kids though. We give our round of hugs and high fives, the door on the van closes and the kids sprint back up the dirt road alongside the van, just as they had done that morning. They are awesome!
If we’re not feeling too lazy we’ll cook dinner on our little stove, but as the weeks went on and the novelty of home cooking wore off, we would meet some of Niamh’s local friends and go out for food and a couple of beers with them. You’ll probably be surprised to hear that no one was sick and the food was always delicious. The only obstacle was catering for two vegetarians, a concept relatively unknown to the Ethiopians. However, they would always manage to rustle up something. On a couple of occasions it even meant the chef rushing off to a local hotel and arriving back with two two dishes from their menu.
When we arrive back at our accommodation we usually sit up for another hour or two chatting. Our group Mammy Kathleen would whip out her homemade brown bread and jam or a slab of duty free chocolate, an absolute treat for helping to keep our spirits high.
To write about our experience in its entirety, we would need to publish a book in order to tell you about the welcoming people, the spectacular landscape, the harrowing stories, the beautiful children.”
Youth Release is currently accepting applications for its summer volunteer programme this July.
So, if you’re looking for an adventure, while also seeking to contribute to a wonderful cause, then this is certainly a great opportunity.
Youth Release is going from strength to strength and we look forward to charting the charity’s progress into the future!
If you would like to volunteer please email email@example.com or call Laura on 0863400652.