Throughout the summer months, local newspapers were littered with stories about anti-social behaviour amongst young people in the Glen and Rosemount areas of the city.
It’s easy to tar all young people with the same brush when a select few terrorise an old woman in her home or when a group of young people shout abuse at anyone who walks by them.
Six teenagers from Glenview Youth Forum are challenging the stereotype by volunteering in their own communities.
On Wednesday, the six young people were congratulated by the Mayor of Derry, Kevin Campbell, for their hard work and they were presented with certificates.
“Sometimes all we hear about is how bad some young people are being. No-one ever thinks that young people want to help and try to improve their own communities,” says 17 year-old Glenview Youth Forum Chairperson, Mark McDermott.
“We have helped to organise an after school club for young children living in the area and we have even raised funds for the Glenview Youth Forum. Some of us have accumulated over 100 hours of volunteering within the last 11 months - I don’t think there are too many adults who can say they have done the same,” he added.
Glenview Community Centre manager, Gerry MacLochlainn, said that the young people were a credit to the local community and added that he was hopeful that other young people from the area might take up more of an active role.
“The young people who are part of the youth forum might not even know it but they are helping to improve and shape their own communities. They are so hard working and dedicated and I think that it’s important that young people say that there’s an equal playing field in the sense that we, as adults, are eager to praise them and recognise them for their selfless devotion to the community.”
Sharon Worrall was the group’s Community Support Worker as they worked towards their target of voluntary work.
“This group of young people were an absolute pleasure to work with. What you have to remember is that all of them are still in full-time education so in order to help out with the Glenview Youth Forum they had to give up their spare time - I think that that’s something as a community we should be celebrating and talking about, I am very proud of them all,” she said.
Amy Doherty is 15 years-old and from the Glen. Amy said that she enjoyed taking part in the youth volunteer project so much that it has made her think about pursuing a career in youth work.
“The main reason why I am giving serious consideration to a job as a youth worker is because I have seen the difference that working with young people can make to a local community,” said Amy.
“As Mark already said, sometimes it’s only ever the bad stories about young people that are told but it’s through such projects as this that young people, like us, have a voice.
“Many of the events that we helped to organise saw us involve many of the younger children of the area.
“One such event was the after school club for young children aged between five and 13. We managed to register almost 100 young children and every week they’d come to the community centre and we’d provide them with activities and things to do from 4.30pm to 6.30pm. We got a lot of positive feedback from all of the parents.”
The Glenview Youth Forum also raised money to buy a television for the residents who use the community centre by raffling off an Easter hamper; they have organised discos for young children and helped to run the centre’s summer scheme during July and August.
“I have really enjoyed taking part in this volunteer programme,” said 15 year-old vice-secretary Jackie Leonard from Hazelbank.
Jackie explained that the group also volunteered to help create a mural in the Glen area and their finished piece is reflective of everyone living in the area.
“There’s a rich mix of age groups living in the Glen area so we came up with the idea of creating a mural that focused on the past, present and the future of the area. It’s proved very popular.”
Fifteen year-old Megan McClenaghan from Ballymagroarty is youth forum secretary and she said that she hopes the momentum created will encourage more young people to get involved with their communities and added that she would like to see the community centre open to them at the weekend.
“The centre is closed at the weekend; it would be great if it could be open all of the time because then it would give us somewhere to go and we wouldn’t have to hang about outside in the streets.
“I’d like to see more young people come to the centre and who knows, maybe next year we will have even more young people helping out and volunteering,” she said.
For further information on the Glenview Youth Forum or the Glenview Community Centre in Cedar Street telephone 028 7126 8748.