Can you help the great Escape?

Escape Project manager John McBride pictured with a group of volunteers from HML. The project is now looking for more volunteers to come forward
Escape Project manager John McBride pictured with a group of volunteers from HML. The project is now looking for more volunteers to come forward

A pioneering youth education project in Derry is urging people to come forward and volunteer to help improve the lives of young people in the city.

John McBride, centre manager at the Escape Project, says the project wants to hear from anyone who is “enthusiastic about making a difference to children’s lives and who’s passionate about literacy, numeracy and ICT.”

Based in the Iona Business Park, the Escape (Education, Sports, Citizenship and Parents) Project is an out of school scheme that works to improve children’s literacy, numeracy and IT skills.

More than 800 young people from the Triax area of the Bogside, Brandywell, Creggan, Fountain and Bishop Street have benefited from the project since it launched in 2009.

It utilises a unique association with Derry City Football Club to deliver its disguised learning programmes designed to be both fun and enjoyable. City star Eamon Zayed is among the current batch of volunteers working with Escape.

Mr McBride says volunteers like Eamon are at the core of Escape’s success and key to having maximum impact on young people’s learning.

“Escape truly values the input of our volunteers. We would really like to hear from anyone who is interested and feels they have something to offer the project.

“Volunteers make an immense difference to the quality of work at Escape.

“The higher the ratio of adult members to children participating in project, the more time we have to spend on an individual basis with the children, helping them to achieve their learning goals and develop their skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT.

“What we are asking is for people to consider giving two to three hours a week to join a team that is making a difference to local children’s lives.

“A number of our volunteers have moved on and we are currently doing a call for new recruits to act as mentors to provide that valuable assistance that makes the Escape project stand out.”

He says working with the project has proven to be an enriching experience for volunteers.

“Volunteering gives people an opportunity to develop socially and professionally.

“What we have found is a number of our volunteers came here because they were out of work or because they intend going into third level education in a youth related discipline

“Escape gives them experience through practice. The impression we get is their experience here gives them an edge when it comes to making applications.”

Mr McBride also appealed to businesses in the city with a sense of corporate responsibility to allow employees to volunteer with the project during working hours.

A partnership with HML - one of Derry’s largest employers - which allows employees to undertake a volunteer mentoring role, has been running since January 2010.

“Through our partnership with HML we have been provided with highly qualified individuals who have been able to take time out of work in order to give something back to their community.

“The feedback we have received from management indicates improvements in morale and productivity,” he says.

“The Escape Project is ideal for any company’s corporate responsibility programme.”

Billy Hutchison of HML says the company has been delighted to participate with Escape.

“Education is one of the best ways for children and young people to overcome early disadvantage and grow up with strong aspirations and prospects for future employment and citizenship.

“Some children do not achieve all they are capable of in school, for a wide range of reasons. This project fills in those gaps.

“Through this supportive environment, HML staff have motivated young people from primary and secondary schools who are at risk of underachieving, to help them raise their goals.”

Mr McBride says following a selection and vetting process, mentors will undergo a comprehensive training programme.

Anyone interested - or any business keen to get involved - can contact the Escape project on 71 266034 or via email at info@escapeproject.org

More details are available online at www.escapeproject.org