New project for young people with disabilities launched

Launch of the People Always Ask Us project at the HUB. Included in photos is participants of the project and facilitators Gavin Melly & Caroline Harkin
Launch of the People Always Ask Us project at the HUB. Included in photos is participants of the project and facilitators Gavin Melly & Caroline Harkin

A group of young people with disabilities have embarked on a new project which provides them with an opportunity to recognise their own identity and explore the culture of others.

The ‘People Always Ask Us’ project aims to break down barriers and provide people with disabilities the chance to gain an insight into their own heritage and that of others, with the aim to develop mutual respect, tolerance and a deeper understanding of cultural diversity.

The Liberty Consortium at the Playtrail have received small grants to deliver the ‘People Always Ask Us’ Project.

It is funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council’s PEACE IV programme (supported by EU funding) and began in September.

The project was officially launched last week.

‘People Always Ask Us’ project has recruited 18 participants (aged 18 and over) with a disability who are from a variety of religious backgrounds, who had limited or no experience of cross-community work.

The project focuses on four educational areas. These include exploring their own culture and heritage on a local level and exploring the culture and heritage of others on a regional basis.

The young people are encouraged to understand diversity with Derry City and Strabane District Council area and Donegal and to explore history on a national level.

All participants share cameras during each session to capture learning and educational moments. The photos will then be used in each individual’s scrapbook, where they will write about their experience and learning.

This is a creative visual way for participants with disabilities to learn and illustrate their understanding of all the topics covered throughout the project.

Gavin Melly, Social Inclusion Manager at the Playtrail, said “From consultation we have learnt that our young people have little or no understanding of their own identity, others and different cultures/backgrounds.”

Mr Melly said the ‘People Always Ask Us’ project allows the young people to explore identity for the first time.

“The project covers an area of work we have not exposed our young people to,” he said. “They have grown up in an isolated education system which focuses on their disability rather than their identity.”

He said the response from the young people so far has been positive.

“Our young people have really embraced this new project and are enjoying their new learning experiencing.

“The Playtrail team have been really creative in devising this new project to maximise learning for our young people.

“We are utilising pottery, fashion and cooking as tools of engagement. We are excited for our trip to Belfast and Dublin within the coming months”.

Owen Kelly, a participant on project, said: “I’m really enjoying the new project, I’ve got to visit and learn lots about our city so far, whilst also looking at my own identity in a creative way. The visit to the Free Derry Museum was really enjoyable and I learnt a lot about the history of city. I can’t wait to visit Belfast and Dublin and learn about the different cultures there.”