A Derry group which uses spirituality to boost the self esteem and confidence of young people, has just finished the second week of its popular summer fun festival.
The Derry Search Youth Group has been operating in the city for more than 20 years, and for the last 12 years has run the hugely successful summer project for young people aged between 3 and 11.
And for Oonagh McAllister and the team of volunteers, the project has come full circle.
“Some of the people looking after the Summer Scheme first took part as young people 12 years ago,” she said.
“This is our second week. Last week the programme was about Jesus as a superhero, this week it is parables and next week it is about dance and prayer around the world.”
The year the Search group is holding the summer scheme in its recently opened new premises at Iona Business Park.
The young people are divided into colour co-ordinated groups according to their ages.
And Oonagh is keen to impress that all the activities at Search are delivered on a person to person basis.
“We don’t have computers here,” she said. “We don’t have any X-boxes or televisions. The focus here is on the relationship. We get to know the child and the young people feel that. When they come here once we remember their name when they come back.”
As well as the traditional Search weekends for young people aged between 15 and 18 which are delivered in Ards each year, the Search Youth group now also offers a Friday night club for 12-14 year-olds.
“Some of the young people in our Friday night group have come on as trainee leaders this summer and are getting the experience of volunteering,” explained Oonagh. “All of the volunteers came through Search themselves.
“I was 17 when I first did Search and I got so much out of it. Search inspired me to go into youth work. Many of our volunteers are teachers, doctors and social workers who did Search when they were 16 or 17.”
Oonagh extended special thanks to Bishop Donal McKeown for visiting the group and spending time with them this week. She also thanked Father Joe Gormley and Tony Doc Doherty from the Corn Beef Tin for their donations, saying without them, the scheme couldn’t run.
Find Derry Search Youth Group on facebook.