A Limavady teenager is preparing for a trip of a lifetime to France this summer which she hopes will teach her valuable skills she can pass onto others in her community.
Roberta Smyth battled stiff competition to win a place in the ‘Spirit of Enniskillen’ programme, which develops the capacity of young people to make a positive contribution to their community.
Roberta, aged 17 and an active member of the Sperrin Road community, believes the trip to Marseille from 14-28 July will make a difference to her community when she comes back home.
The Health and Social Care student says that as the only person representing Limavady in the programme this year, she is “privileged” to have been chosen from the rigorous selection process.
“I grew up on Sperrin Road and it gets a bad rap. People think it’s all negative, but you get bad things happening in every community. There are a lot of good people and good things happening in Sperrin Road. I know because I live here and I care about my community. People shouldn’t judge a place on what they hear. I have a close bond with my community.”
The articulate and confident teen isn’t exaggerating when she says she has ‘a lot on’ and barely has a free night. The chatty former Limavady High School student is a leader at the local youth forum run by Roe Valley Residents Association, listening to about a dozen young people in the area and taking their concerns - such as anti-social behaviour, lack of leisure facilities in their area - to Council and the PSNI. She also runs a community lotto, plays the flute in the Edenmore Flute Band and organises events for a fitness programme.
Roberta had to fundraise to pay for costs towards the trip and, by organising a “stay awake” night, she raised an inpressive £508, “and the mayor gave me £50 too!”
“There was a lot of banging of pots to keep people awake, but it was good fun,” she said.
During the trip, Roberta - who aims to be a youth worker after she completes her studies - will participate in workshops and act as ‘leader for a day’, where she will organise her group, making they stick to their schedule of appointments and give a talk on a health issues.
“I’m really looking forward to it and sharing my opinions with everyone else and meeting the French community!”
Catherine Loughrey from Roe Valley Residents Association said Roberta is the only person on the programme who applied outside of the school process. She hailed Roberta as a ‘role model’.
“Roberta has made the right choices in life and she is where she is today because of that and the support of her peers, the community and her family,” she said.
“It’s a brilliant opportunity for her and we are very proud of her. We know she will enjoy it and come back with what she has learned and share it with the other young people here.”