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.
Written by Jacob
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