It has helped hundreds of young people from places like Creggan, Bogside and Brandywell but the U-Turn Project came to an end last Friday afternoon.
The sun shone, burgers sizzled on a barbeque and children of all ages were having fun. To mark the end of the U-Turn Project, staff and volunteers organised a celebration in the green area just beside the Bogside Inn.
The U-Turn Project was set-up by Dove House in 2010 and for the last four years it has been funded by Children In Need.
The project worked with young people from the Triax area (Longtower, Brandywell, Bogside, Creggan, Fountain and Bishop Street) who were deemed to be at risk of committing anti-community behaviour.
“I’ve been part of the U-Turn Project from the day it started in 2010,” said 16 year-old Conor McCourt from Cable Street.
“It’s helped me so much and I am working as a youth worker out in Caw now. It’s been an absolute pleasure being part of the project and I will miss it when it’s gone,” he added.
William O’Donnell has worked on the U-Turn Project since 2013 and he said that the results speak for themselves.
“I don’t think there are too many people who would disagree with us if we were to say that instances of anti-community behaviour have severely declined since the U-Turn Project came into practice four years ago.
“The parade season is always contentious but last year we took the young people out of Derry when it was happening. It’s all about being pro-active and giving young people an alternative.”
Fifteen year-old, Cormac Clarke, first joined the U-Turn Project when he was 11. Since that time, Cormac has developed a skill for DJing and is interested in pursuing a career in youth work.
“Although today is the grand finale for the U-Turn Project it’s really nice for me to be able to play some music. I really enjoy DJing and so far, so good - everyone seems to be enjoying it.
“The best thing about the U-Turn Project was the trips we went on. The last one was a residential to Corrick - it was amazing.
“The other things I liked about the U-Turn Project is the fact that we got to meet other young people from other areas. Being part of the U-Turn Project has definitely made me think about a career as a youth worker. I have been able to see first hand the difference people like William can make and that’s what I would like to do when I get older.”
Chanice Doherty (17) is from Joseph’s Place in the Bogside and as a direct result of taking part in the U-Turn Project she is studying childcare at the North West Regional College.
“The reason the U-Turn Project worked so well for me was because the youth workers spoke to us as opposed to at us. It never once felt like they were telling us what to do. I enjoyed the project and the youth workers were amazing that I decided to go on to the North West Regional College to study childcare - I’d love to be doing something like the U-Turn Project for a living when I get older,” she smiled.
Clare Maguire, is the U-Turn Project Co-ordinator. Clare has been involved with the project since its inception four years ago and she said that whilst the U-Turn Project will cease to exist in name, the good work being carried out by youth workers in the Triax are will continue to go from strength-to-strength.
“The U-Turn Project has left a real legacy in the Triax area,” said Clare.
“Although the project will no longer exist, the ethos of U-Turn will continue on through the Youth Transition Project (YTP).
“YTP will continue to work with young people in the area and it will operate a drop in centre in the Youth First premises in the Bogside.
“I have to say, I am really proud to have worked on the U-Turn Project because the whole reason I got into youth work was because I wanted to make a difference and when I sit and listen to what some of the young people have to say about the last few years then I know the project definitely delivered on what it set out to do.”
The Youth Transition Project is a Dove House project and is funded by the Public Health Agency. YTP provides help and support for young people aged between 11 and 25. For more information on YTP visit their website www.youthtransitionproject.com