Oisin set up a football and exercise project called Express Youth as a reaction to the lack of activities for young people where he lives in Newry, Northern Ireland. He wanted to create a friendly and positive environment for those in care, where they could express themselves creatively with like-minded individuals.
“We have had cases where children would be out on the streets, getting in trouble with the police,” says Oisin. “Sometimes people in care don’t really express themselves or tell you their problems and what they want to happen.”
Express Youth is all about getting people involved in activities, working together, and trying to take away any stigma attached to being in care, says Oisin. “It’s about making children in care feel the same as everyone else, and for them to feel among friends so they will share problems, so they don’t have to face them alone.”
Oisin organised around 50 football and exercise sessions attended by an average of 20 people. To do this, he worked with three social workers who helped spread the word of his events, which included taking 50 young people to watch an international football match. Since then the sessions have expanded to include kayaking and paintball.
Oisin credits Live UnLtd in helping him set up the sessions. “The support from Live UnLtd has been brilliant. We love having my Development Manager Ashley at the sessions because she has been so good to us.”
As the sessions grew, Oisin saw that those who attended were thriving, and were willing to come along in spite of any obstacle, even awful weather.
“There have been nights where we’ve had up to 40 people,” says Oisin. “In rain and even snow we’ve all happily played on. It’s been brilliant. All the young people love it and keep showing up.”
One example of the positive impact Express Youth has had was on one boy who had previously had problems with drugs and alcohol, and had been in trouble with the police. “He kept coming back to the football because he enjoys it so much,” says Oisin. “It really does show that Express Youth has made a big impact in his life and he has now become an inspiration to his peer group.”
Oisin’s own inspiration comes from his father, a social worker, who has helped Oisin in setting up Express Youth. Oisin now hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps by taking the year out of his university studies to work in social care. He has also applied to become an UnLtd Community Reporter, in which Oisin will report on social enterprise in his local area.
Andrew Cronin is a qualified parkour (or free running) athlete and founder of Art In Movement (AiM), an organisation that teaches classes throughout the South Wales area.
Hi Andrew. How did you get involved in parkour?
I used to do gymnastics and the trampoline, but when I saw someone doing more interesting free-style moves, I was interested to know more. I asked him what it was about and it just started from there. Since getting involved six years ago I’ve met so many people locally and from around the world. One of the best experiences I’ve had with the sport was going to London to do the qualification. While I was there, I just happened to spot a guy training and he was doing a move that I really wanted to learn. As he didn’t speak English we communicated using body language and eventually he taught me this very advanced move. We spent all day together, and I taught him one of my moves.
Why did you decide to form AiM?
My community needs this kind of sort thing in order to provide young people with something positive to do and try to combat antisocial activities and boredom. Doing this sport, you need to have respect – for yourself, the environment because of the risks, and those teaching you.
Who attends your classes?
We run between two and four classes per week and up to 16 people attend them. In terms of age, most people are under 16. Our youngest member is just seven, while in our adult class the oldest guy is 42!
Do the people you teach also have gymnastic experience?
Not many do. When we started the classes we were keen to find out how they heard about the sport. A lot of people said YouTube, one said he came from a break dancing background, and only a couple had been doing gymnastics. Online video have the most influence, and bring most people into the sport. While they inspire people to go outside and try it, without the right knowledge you’re not going to do it correctly, which can be dangerous.
So anyone can give it a go?
Absolutely. I’ve been training my girlfriend’s brother, Garrin, and he’s brand new to the sport. He’s now doing hand springs and moving onto more advanced things, yet at the start he couldn’t even get over a wall. He actually has spina bifida too, which adds another element to the challenge, but he’s come on so much. Thanks to Live UnLtd, we’re going to send him on a Parkour Level 1 training course, an internationally recognised qualification, which is great news as he’ll be able to assist me on the project.
How did Live UnLtd help you?
Live Unltd has funded me from the start. My development manager (DM) got what it was I was trying to achieve and was so supportive. Once I’d decided to help the community using parkour, I realised I needed a qualification – so I went for that. My DM had a similar passion to what I had, but she made me think about what I was trying to do and asked for my thoughts, so that I began to answer my own questions. In this way I was able to do things in the way I wanted to do them. I was also put in touch with a local college enterprise officer who also supported me.
What’s next for AiM?
We’re branching out to other towns in the region, and performing at local community events to demonstrate what the class can do and to spread the word. We also work with the police, which began at the Bridgend Mash-Up event in the summer for which we had all this scaffolding and equipment set up – thanks again to Live UnLtd! See, it comes back to you guys again! The police are very supportive too. In fact, ten officers signed up to take the class themselves! My ultimate main goal is a parkour affiliated gym – a massive indoor space that looks like it’s an outdoor urban environment where we can just play around and have fun, like big kids.
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