Faith based youth organisation says it is stronger than ever after 30 years in the city and it has big plans for the future

On Sunday coming, Derry’s Search Youth Group will officially open its new premises at Iona Business Park.

It’s a landmark occasion for the faith based organisation and there’s no mistaking the passion and excitement in each group member about what they see as a very bright future.

That future, group members say, is simply building on the legacy from the club’s origins.

The well known organisation began 30 years ago, during the height of the Troubles in Derry. Over the past thirty years, countless young people have come through the group, some now bringing their own children.

For a faith based group to still be attracting as many members as ever and even growing in size and scale is no mean feat in an era where more people than ever are struggling with their faith.

Paula Moore isn’t one of those people - and she’s absolutely clear about what she sees as the life changing impact the ‘Search’ group has had on her. For Paula and other members the group seems to provide the tools to deal with the challenges that life in Derry in 2016 brings. In an era where the city still has many areas of high deprivation, Paula says Search gives many teenagers here hope for the future.

This week, as the group got ready to move to its new home, Paula reflected on her own personal journey.

“In my last few days of university studying Theology and Youthwork, I was presented with this defining moment, the realisation that I had made it. I surpassed all self-expectation, the moments of self-doubt and reservations, the insecure hecklers and the destitute but safe communities that we drag ourselves from, I surpassed and I would graduate with a degree.

“I remember examining the final findings of my dissertation research, adding together percentages and designing pretty and colourful pie charts as I pieced together the harsh reality of the perceptions of young people, the concerning influences of family, life, and society. I concluded that these factors gradually define who we are and what the future looks like for all of us. And I remember the sadness that seemed to engulf me and the fear that presented itself, the fear of the future. These times are changing and it is recognised that youth unemployment is rising, job prospects are barely existing, education and training is lacking and communities are becoming more deprived than ever before. This fear for the future began to leave me when - as a leaders’ group within the Derry Search Group - we began to work on the refreshing unique plans for the future of this amazing organisation that had impacted my life transforming my outlook as a young teen.”

Paula explains exactly what the group sets out to achieve for every young person who comes through the door. It’s a clear vision.

“The ‘Search’ movement has now supported generations of families over the past 30 years using its unique and successful faith development programmes, all based on the core principle which is to love each young person wherever they are at, to teach them to love themselves, which ignites the flame of baptism and ultimately leads to the love of Christ,” she says.

Oonagh McAllister, coordinator of ‘Search’ says that after 20 years with the group, she sees advantages for all the young people who become members.

“The ‘basic’ needs are being met instantly as soon as young people register and show interest in belonging. ‘Safety, Love and Self- Esteem needs’ are being met through their participation in the various programmes on offer. ‘Self Actualisation’ is being reached by their willingness to partake in the ‘OCN’ accredited programmes which help to change attitudes towards a redirection to education and employment, and self-transcendence is often reached as a result of the deliberate injection of spirituality and moral beliefs that are part and parcel of all our courses.

“In reality, we can boast that, within the parameters of Derry Search Youth Group in conjunction with the new facilities, there is something unique happening here, lives have been and undoubtedly will be transformed.”

As Oonagh and her colleagues move to the new premises, there are big plans in the pipeline for the group.

The famous ‘Mol an Oige’ summer scheme will continue this year and will be extended to one month and there are many other plans in place.

Among the plans are a new area which will be rented out for children’s birthday parties and a wide range of courses for young adults.

The official opening of the new premises will be celebrated this Sunday, May 15th with a Mass at 7:30pm followed by a blessing of the building and the serving of refreshments.

Please visit the ‘Derry Search Group’ Facebook page for further information on all the events taking place over the coming months.