Young lives in rural Derry being transformed through Tús Nua

IFI Board Member Paddy Harte pictured with T�s Nua initiative participants Ruari O'Donnell and Eden O'Hara. (Photo Lorcan Doherty)
IFI Board Member Paddy Harte pictured with T�s Nua initiative participants Ruari O'Donnell and Eden O'Hara. (Photo Lorcan Doherty)

A rural youth project has helped transform the lives of 43 young people in the Derry area, thanks to a unique approach to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.

Lettershandoney and District Development Group through its Tús Nua initiative is tackling key issues that many rural communities face by offering a new, meaningful life path for those involved.

Supported through the International Fund for Ireland’s Personal Youth Development Programme (PYDP), the project is working with young people aged 16-25, who have faced a range of complex issues including poor mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, difficult family backgrounds, been in or close to criminal system or social issues, and marked the end of its first year with a celebration event at the Maldron Hotel.

IFI Board Member, Paddy Harte said; “Our PYDP programme is designed to target those who feel left behind. It goes beyond the traditional concept of a youth initiative and allows participants to become actively involved in planning their own future goals and ambitions.

“Tús Nua is a fantastic example of how outreach work can transform young lives.”

Eden O’Hara, course participant, said: “The PYDP programme has given me a lot of confidence. I have made brilliant friends and have come out of my shell greatly. I have gained lots of useful skills, which have helped me a lot in finding a job.  I feel very outgoing and have little to no problems meeting new people now whereas before it was a big problem for me.  I feel like a new, happier person.”

The project was awarded £211,322 in 2017 to deliver a good relations, personal development and further education/ employability courses.

Karen McLaughlin, project coordinator, said it came about after a survey revealed that 55 per cent of respondents knew someone with a mental health issue and 25 per cent were experiencing mental health issues. “Rural isolation can create a lack of opportunity, a feeling of exclusion and no real freedom of expression in many cases. These challenges have had a huge impact on our young people’s mental health and their belief to make positive changes in their lives,” she said.

“We have ambitions to grow the project further next year and will be tackling important issues head on. Improving confidence, self-esteem, healthy relationships, self-harm, drugs, alcohol and suicide awareness are just some of the areas we’ll offer guidance and training on to ensure our young people are equipped with the right tools to make positive life choices.”