Staff Spotlight | Laura Doherty | Youth Outreach Worker
What is your position at Donegal Youth Service?
I work in the Youth Outreach Project which works with youth clubs and projects across the county. I am responsible for youth development and supporting the volunteers who work with the affiliated and associate Youth Clubs & Projects of Donegal Youth Service. I run programmes and training for the young people in the clubs in areas such as personal development, sexual health education & performing arts.
What is the Youth Outreach Project?
The Youth Outreach Project provides support for youth club development, training for adult volunteers, as well as a range of programmes for young people aged 10-25 years old. We help volunteers get Garda Vetted and we also provide the Child Protection Awareness Programme for anyone volunteering in the clubs/projects. I also deliver accredited and non-accredited training to Young People across the membership. We hold competitions throughout the year for all clubs to participate in, for example a Christmas card competition, soccer tournament, variety shows etc.
We run a summer programme during the month of July where a small team of us go out to the clubs and run a 1-2 day programme based on team building, sport & personal development.
How did you become interested in Youth Work?
I began working with young people when I moved to Canada to teach drama. I never thought about working with young people before this but once I was able to see the impact I was making, it was a real life-changing moment. I was working with young people with difficult backgrounds and just giving them the smallest compliment or even the smallest acknowledgement would make their day. For me, helping young people gain confidence in themselves and realise their potential in the world is my main goal. I think young people have a tough time of it at the minute, especially with the huge impact of social media, when I look back when I was growing up, the world seemed like an easier world to grow up in. The pressure on young people is crazy whether it’s their school results, their sporting ability or how they look and act in front of their peers. Raising their self-esteem and making young people feel good about themselves is what I love to do and I hope to continue it for a long time.
What’s your background?
I grew up in Kilmacrennan my whole life and then moved to Galway City where I studied Irish and Theatre and Performance in NUI. I have always been involved in performing arts, whether it was singing, dancing or drama I was always on the stage. I didn’t return back to Kilmacrennan after that, I got the travel bug and decided to try out Canada. My Dad worked in Canada when he was younger and I have relations over there so I was always curious to see it.
I applied for a Camp Canada programme which allowed me to go and teach drama in a summer camp in Montreal. Montreal was a French-speaking district so I had to take any French I had learnt in the Convent over with me! My 4 summers spent in the summer camp were the best times of my life and made me the person I am today. I began to work full time for this youth organisation in Montreal and spent the next few years there. I got to attend some amazing youth work conferences in America where I gained invaluable experience. As much as I loved Canada, home is home and I came home last year and began working for DYS.
I have since been trained in Play Therapy and in working with young people with Special Needs and I hope to continue in this line of work for as long as I can!
What do Youth Clubs do?
Depending on the club, they meet up once or twice a week. Some youth clubs have a large age range, so maybe the younger group would meet on a separate evening to the older age group. Each club has a group of volunteers who help out weekly with the organising of activities, programmes or trips away. Programmes can include the homework club, grinds for school, soccer, basketball, pool, dancing, drama and much more! It is a great concept as it allows young people to come into a safe environment and develop in skills that perhaps they have never tried before. Clubs also organise overnight stays in other local clubs, so young people also have the chance to meet other young people from other parts in the county!
Some clubs have their own summer programme, where it would run for 3-4 days in a row during the summer, with outings and different activities happening every day.
What would you say to a young person who is unsure about getting involved in a youth club?
It is totally okay to be nervous about joining something new, I think every person feels that way about trying something new out, even me! I would try and think of all the good things that can happen by joining a youth club, it’s a chance to try out new things that you might not have tried before and of course it’s a great chance to make some new friends.
If you are new to the area, it’s a great chance to meet people your age in the community and it’s a fun environment where you can relax and have fun with people your age.
For more information about the Youth Outreach Project contact Laura or Youth Outreach Manager Charlene Logue on 074 91 29630.