Thank you to our partner in peacebuilding Barry Fennell of Co-Operation Ireland for helping to inspire youth around the world to continue taking the lead in important community-building projects despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following is an article by Marianne Flood for DerryNews of Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
A youth project based in Derry's council area is using modern technology to stay in touch during the coronavirus crisis. The North West Ministry of Youth Project has 35 members across Derry and Strabane who have formed a youth council and are putting together a manifesto for the changes they would like to see in their city and town. The group, which was formed in October, had been holding weekly meetings, but these were all canceled due to government restrictions imposed following the outbreak of the coronavirus. Project Manager of the North West Ministry of Youth Project, Barry Fennell, decided to use video conferencing technology to allow the group to continue to come together and share ideas.
"The main thing was to keep relationships with young people during isolation and this very stressful and difficult time," he explained. "Whilst I am working from home I am still actively engaging with young people through 'Zoom' web conferencing." "My normal youth engagement work would be face to face, but I have had to adapt. Obviously we have been extremely restricted, but this is the best alternative."
The North West Ministry of Youth Project has now held two online meetings and the members have quickly adapted to the new format. "When we held our first meeting there was a bit of uncertainty amongst the young people," said Mr. Fennell. "They were off school but at the same time they were stuck at home and they were getting used to that. "Some of them are [caregivers] or have to look after younger siblings and a few of them did express some apprehensions. But the fact they were all together and could all see each other was great. Zoom is a very good tool because it enables you to have a different type of conversation."
The cross border and cross-community North West Ministry of Youth Project is for youths aged 14 to18 and allows them to be the voice for the young people in the North West. It normally includes residential and activity-based work, study visits, local workshops, confidence building, and skills development. The project is delivered through Co-operation Ireland in partnership with the Derry City and Strabane District Council and the Education Authority.