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Focus Family Resource Centre

Addressing issues around social isolation and lack of opportunity in very remote and rural areas of West Cavan, has been key to tackling challenges faced by its young people including mental health concerns and substance abuse.

The International Fund for Ireland’s support through its Personal Youth Development Programme (PYDP) has been a lifeline to the young people of West Cavan who had limited facilities for their age group in an area still suffering from the legacy of the Troubles and from a lack of investment.

PYDP coordinator Cathy O’Reilly knows tackling rural isolation is important to give the young people access to opportunities, so the project has been busy working on a rural transport initiative, providing driving lessons and developing links with schools and community organisations.

Social isolation, difficult family relationships, mental health difficulties, anxiety and a general lack of hope, much of which can be attributed to a legacy of the Troubles, are issues being addressed by the centre on an ongoing basis. These are challenges that are compounded by a lack of transport and local opportunities.

Working one-to-one with young people has seen them flourish over the last year and knowing that the IFI’s investment in the community is long-term is enabling the centre to change lives.

IFI Chairman Paddy Harte pictured with Stacey Carr-Kennedy, Donegal, Amy O'Hara, Tubercurry, Alice Smith, Sligo and Shannon Connolly, Cavan at “Own your Own Future”, a special careers workshop held in Lough Rynn Castle, Co Leitrim.

Developing strong links to the Education and Training Board where courses are delivered has seen five of the latest intake enter further education in welding, nursing, caring work and emergency healthcare.

“We also have three of the cohort in full time employment so there is a lot of success there over the last year, which took a lot of focus, “Cathy said.

“We struggled a lot because they were coming from such a wide area and their needs are so individual but following a lot of lobbying a volunteer driver initiative got off the ground to ensure young people could get to their courses and appointments. This helped them gain skills and look to other opportunities.

Good relations training is an integral part of the project. Ensuring that the young people on the project gain a greater understanding and acceptance of the past and the different traditions on this island is important for their development.

As part of the good relations training the group have undertaken trips to Belfast and elsewhere to experience different communities.

The group on a recent trip Belfast.

Social farming has been an excellent addition to the programme of activities. Young people have been going on 10-12 week placements, building confidence and experience on organic farms, learning to prepare meals from scratch and growing food in poly tunnels.

When problems around engagement after summer and Christmas breaks began to arise, the centre realised extra support was needed to stop people slipping into old habits.

A community support worker was brought on board to assist families more widely, which freed up Cathy’s time to draw in other resources. A professional counselling service, which nearly all participants have availed of, has also been a massive aid to progress.

Cathy notices all the little changes being made to lives. “One young person who was not being treated fairly by an employer has learned to read and write from scratch, completed a training course and got a properly paid full time job.

“It has made such a difference to his life. He now knows his rights and entitlements. He has come so far in the space of a year.”

Other successes over the last year include young people passing their driving tests, one completing a law qualification and two young artists coming together with plans to open a gallery space.

“The young people are back into education and work and thinking long term which is great” Cathy said.

Participant’s success was celebrated at a recent and plans are afoot for cross-border work and linking in with projects in Belfast and Drumgore.

For further information about our funding programmes, or for information on how to apply for funding, please contact the person(s) or organisation(s) identifed at the end of the relevant programme summary in the areas of activity section.

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