Many people in Gorey will be aware of the fabulous work done by the Gorey Youth Needs Group.
Now, renamed as the YOLOS (Youth Opportunities, Local Outcomes Service), the initiative is a community based youth project that supports young people, and their families, particularly those who are or who may be at risk of experiencing social exclusion. The principles that underpin their work are: Equality, Inclusion, Participation, Empowerment and respect for all individuals.
Based in the Mary Ward Lane opposite Gorey School of Art, the drop-in group, with a not-for-profit community childcare centre downstairs, is a hive of activity. It is Friday evening and, already, teenagers are arriving for youth club gig that runs from 5-7.30pm each Friday evening – with resident band Innuendo!
Speaking to community worker Mandi Gregan and a group of teens, they explain that the service also facilitates a Young LGBT Group, a 3rd & 4th Class Primary Group, a 5th Class Primary Group, a 6th Class Primary Group, Young Women’ Development Group, Parent & Toddler Group, Gamman Cant Group, and Teenage Personal Development Programmes.
The courses run include first aid, beauty, sexual health, nutrition, swimming, meditation before exams, swimming, drug and alcohol awareness. “We focus on the health and wellbeing of young people, taking in all aspects of physical, emotional, sexual, and mental health,” said Mandi.
The teenagers I met were engaging and funny, helpful and chatty – miles away from the stigma of ‘awkward’ kids that they say people think attend drop-in services. One teenager had recently won a Garda Youth Award for her work supporting other kids who are being bullied in her secondary school. Another had been to Italy with a group from Amnesty International.
The service also offers progression training with a Local Training Initiative in Sport, Recreation, and Exercise. This 34-week course prepares the participants, aged 17-30, for work in the leisure industry.
All in all, the YOLOS group is a fantastic outlet for all kids, where they can mix and engage with each other in a safe environment, supported by the community and supportive of the community.