Young people from the Bogside, Brandywell and Creggan gathered together in Pilot’s Row on Thursday evening to explain how the U-Turn Project has changed their lives.
The event was the U-Turn Project’s annual showcase and it was designed as a celebration of the work undertaken by the young people throughout the year.
The U-Turn Project is a Dove House led project and is co-ordinated by local youth worker, Clare Maguire. The initiative is funded by Children in Need and the Derry City Council Community Safety Partnership.
The project was set-up to work with young people from areas with high levels of anti-social behaviour and direct the young people towards more inclusive and community focused initiatives.
“Since the U-Turn Project started in September 2012 we have worked with over 155 young people, exceeding our original target of 100. Incidence of anti-community behaviour by 10-18 year olds in the Triax area has decreased, which has been evidenced by newspaper articles, Youth Justice Agency, Criminal Restorative Justice and verbal reports from the U-Turn steering group.
“Changes on the levels of participation in positive community activities has started to take place, with young people now volunteering in their youth club, and high numbers signposted on to relevant courses, training and employment opportunities,” said Clare.
Some of the young people spoke honestly and openly about their past and one teenager said that had it not been for the U-Turn Project he would probably be involved in anti-social behaviour.
Thirteen year-old Sarena O’Kane is a second year student at St. Cecilia’s College. Sarena said that she enjoyed taking part in the drug and alcohol awareness classes and added that the U-Turn Project has given her a sense of purpose in her own community.
“I really enjoyed the U-Turn Project because we got to do a lot of outdoor activities and we went on courses every Monday. We also went to Dove House to learn about drugs and alcohol and the effect anti-social behaviour has on our community.
“If it wasn’t for Clare telling us about U-Turn we would be standing at street corners or at the Creggan shops waiting for the police to come or annoying old people.
“I want to thank Clare for helping us change our attitude towards things and keeping us off the streets.”
Keevan McLaughlin from Creggan said he enjoyed going away on trips during the U-Turn Project and even suggested that had it not been for the help of Clare and other community workers many of the young people in the area could have ended up taking drugs on the streets.
“The best thing about the U-Turn Project was the trips we went on. They were great because it was fun and we learnt new things about drugs and alcohol.
“The project also took us away from street corners where you never know what could happen, we could have ended up smoking grass and we all want to thank the funders for giving U-Turn the money to keep going.”
Twelve year-old Kacey Meenan described her involvement in the U-Turn Project as “brilliant” and added that she’s looking forward to taking part again.
“I loved the courses and the trips because we got to experience new things,” said Kacey.
“U-Turn has changed my attitude in school and outside of school, U-Turn helped my friends and I to stay off the streets, I can’t wait to do U-Turn again.
“I would like to thank Clare Maguire she has been here for us all the time. Even though the project is now over she’s always there if we need a chat.”
Clare Maguire finished off by praising the young people, saying they were a credit to their local communities and their parents
She is also happy the project is to be funded for another two years.
“We didn’t get as much funding as we would have liked which may impact on the number of young people we can target, but we will endeavour to our best over the coming years because the young people of these areas are our future.
For further information on the U-Turn Project contact Clare Maguire at Dove House on 028 7127 3973.