Your youth organisation should build relationships with local stakeholders including community and religious leaders, families and existing networks of minority ethnic groups, as well as those of the majority community. This will help to allay fears and concerns by building trust. Invite parents and families to open days. Make time to meet parents individually if necessary. Translate basic information about your organisation where possible. Look for opportunities to work with other local groups. Also liaise with formal structures such as schools, ‘an Garda Síochána’ (police service in Ireland), churches, and other youth projects, clubs and services.
Who to network with and how to do it effectively…
Networking can be seen as time-consuming but it is something that can be built into everything your youth organisation does. Such networking is crucial in working together to support the young person, and meet their needs. All projects highlighted the need to network with community-based groups, and inter-agency fora, such as:
- Local Youth Work organisations
- Vocational Education Committees (VECs)
- VEC Youth Officers
- Home-School Liaison Officers
- An Garda Síochána
- English Language Schools
- The Health Service Executive (HSE)
- City And County Partnerships
- County Councils and County Development Boards
- Third level institutions who can provide volunteers
- Religious Organisations (Churches, Chaplaincies, Mosques and Religious groups)
- Family Centres
- Groups For Elderly People
- Intercultural Committees
- Minority ethnic-led networks/associations
- Other community-based organisations
“Within the community I was very involved on the Intercultural Sub- Committee in the Greater Blanchardstown area. In the youth club we were keen to do activities on breaking down barriers and realising that you have more in common with others than you think. Some of this work was also about breaking down the imaginary lines between local areas – like Huntstown, Corduff, Tyrrelstown etc. They have urban legends about each other so we planned activities across areas to bring the young people together.”(Tyrrelstown youth worker)
If you are supporting youngrefugees and asylum seekers, it can be useful to refer to specific support agencies, such as:
Linking in with organisations of minority ethnic communities is also crucial. As Localise experienced, it is important to go to where minority ethnic communities meet to engage with them. It is also very important to look at what’s already going on in your community, as most minority ethnic groups are already quite active. Many families and parents will also have a trusting relationship with such groups in their local area, particularly for families living in Direct Provision Centres. For example, Mayo Intercultural Action assisted the Castlebar Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP), Foróige, in identifying young people for their intercultural project, and followed-up with parents ensuring that they had understood what the youth work projects involved. Some groups may be able to provide translation and interpretation services. Contact details for intercultural groups around Ireland are available from Integrating Ireland, New Community Partnerships (NCPs) and others.
“When working with people of different ethnic backgrounds it’s good to look at things which are already going on, because there is a lot of stuff already going on within the communities… All the communities have a sense of organising themselves. If people from a community are here more than three or four years, there will already be a group working so it’s good to get contacts with people who are already organised.”
(Localise Development Officer)
Although translation of basic information into native languages of the target groups can be helpful, most groups did not translate their information in leaflets or brochures. Castlebar Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP), Foróige, in worked with resettled refugees who had very basic levels of English when they arrived in the community. Ensuring the provision of an interpreter through the resettlement programme (managed by RIA) was very important in communicating with the parents and families.
Working with young people from a minority ethnic background requires a strong, trusting relationship between the youth worker and the parents or guardians. An open attitude and respect are essential, and establishing a good reputation for youth work among the community is key. Building such a relationship takes time and commitment on the part of the youth worker, and is greatly aided by meeting the parents through other points of contact, such as schools, teachers and religious communities. It is important to explain what youth work actually is, and what your organisation provides. Some parents may not be fully convinced of the value of youth work. For YMCA in Cork, youth work is attractive to parents when it is introduced through something they want or need such as skills development, English classes and homework support offered by Ninos club.
Engaging with parents from new communities in Ireland is similar to the approach adopted by youth workers working with young Travellers. Bishopstown Youth Project (Ógra Chorcaí) provides a comprehensive professional service directly to the young people attached to the project, and the workers have also facilitated Cooking – Health & Nutrition, First Aid & Fire Safety, and Sexual Health courses for the parents. Parental involvement is seen as a crucial element to the work conducted with young people.Other initiatives include giving parents a Parents’ Room while young people attended youth groups, engaging with them regularly, contacting parents immediately, especially if the young person is absent or there is a change in programme. YMCA had a different experience. Parents checked in initially before the young people started to attend the Ninos club, but after that parents are hardly ever involved – it seems the young people like to keep their parents away! However this was not an issue, as YMCA had secured the trust of the parents in advance through the schools, and the Youth Information Centre. Many African parents also trusted the ‘Christian’ ethos of YMCA.
Working withseparated children seeking asylum also requires a lot of networking and cooperation with agencies. As the VSI (Voluntary Service International) youth programme coordinator stated, such young people do not have the usual social supports from a family living in Ireland; even the basic role of a parent in getting their teenagers up and out of bed in the morning for a youth work activity is missing in their lives! So it is important to get to know the manager of the HSE accommodation where they live, and the social workers assigned to each young person.
Some young people and parents will want to be involved in a youth work group that is specific to their ethnic, cultural or linguistic (language) background. Some young people will join such groups on a temporary basis until they become confident to join a mainstream youth organisation or other activity in their area. Linking with other youth organisations is very important to support the young people to have confidence in joining an activity or youth club that they enjoy. Young people may want to join a specific youth work activity such as Scouting, or sport. It is important to help the young person understand the options available. For example, VSI worked jointly with ECO-UNESCO who offered young people the opportunity to become involved in environmental awareness programmes. The collaboration of experience between the two organisations worked really well.
“Just because they’re from the ‘target group’ and they’re marginalised doesn’t mean they have to join our activity”…”We realised probably the ideal way to go is to actually start putting other organisations in contact (with the young people) through partnership projects.”
(VSI Teenage Programme Coordinator)
Minority ethnic parents will also worry for their children’s safety in youth organisations. Outreach is important and many projects undertook home visits to parents and families, both in outreach before young people joined the group and on an on-going basis to communicate information to parents, and check for any concerns. Bishopstown Youth Project conducted home visits twice a year to all parents of young people attending the project.
A flexible approach is necessary when engaging minority ethnic communities in youth work. Foróige Tyrrelstown Youth Initiative in Dublin provided a drop-in facility as well as conducting outreach. Going out to meet the young people on the streets of Tyrrelstown was crucial to getting them involved. This was a slow process and it took the youth worker about 3-4 months of contact to build up the necessary trust within the community.
Encourage minority ethnic adults to become involved in your organisation as volunteers and youth workers– this will help build trust with new communities in your local area. Advertising for volunteers through local newspapers, local libraries, the internet and volunteering centres can help. Again it is important to include a clear description of youth work, what your organisation offers and other procedures such as Child Protection and Garda Vetting.
“The networking events have strengthened our links with others who were present. When we see them at other events, they come and chat or vice versa which would not have happened as much in the past and we are discussing a number of possible follow-on actions.”
(NYCI networking event participant)
It is also a good idea to network with other youth work organisations in your area. NYCI (National Youth Council of Ireland) organised networking events in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Monaghan and Waterford in 2009. Some events brought youth workers and volunteers together to hear personal accounts of good practice examples in intercultural youth work; others aimed at introducing youth work organisations and minority ethnic members of the community to each other. Youth workers can learn a lot from each other, and sometimes things have happened in other youth organisations that you would not be aware of. Share information on what works in intercultural youth work.
Additional Resources/Training for networking:
- Practical Guidelines for doing Intercultural Youth Work
- NYCI Training on ‘Practical Supports in Intercultural Youth Work’
- NYCI ‘Access All Areas’ Diversity Toolkit for the youth sector http://www.youth.ie/diversity (for a list of relevant organisations working with and led by minority ethnic and cultural communities)
- NYCI reports on networking events on www.intercultural.ie
- NYCI flyer on Intercultural Youth Work (with sections translated into 8 languages)http://www.intercultural.ie/youth_work
- Contact your VEC Youth Officer through the local VEC in your area http://www.ivea.ie/committees_search.htm
- Volunteering Ireland http://www.volunteer.ie/index.htm
- Volunteer Centres Ireland http://www.volunteer.ie/-about-us-.html
- Integrating Ireland www.integratingireland.ie
How would you rate? /How is your organisation doing?
- Castlebar Neighbourhood Youth Project ‘Talking Heads’ project , Foróigehttp://www.foroige.ie/index.cfm?fuseaction=Neighbourhood_Youth_Projects&content_id=22
- Localise, Multicultural School www.localise.ie
- No. 4 Drop-in centre, Galway Diocesan Youth Service (GDYS) http://www.gdys.org/index.php?page=tagaste-house
- Ógra Chorcaí, Bishopstown Youth Project; contactable through this forum: http://homepage.eircom.net/~clvyc/home.html
- Tyrrelstown Youth Initiative, Foróige http://www.foroige.ie/index.cfm?fuseaction=Local_Youth_Services&content_id=16
- VSI (Voluntary Service International), Dublin, Teenage Programme http://www.vsi.ie/volunteer/teenage.html
- Youth Work Ireland, Galway, SPARK (Support Project for Asylum Seeker and Refugee Kids) http://www.youthworkgalway.ie/projects.php?project=24
- YMCA Cork, Ninos Club http://www.ymcacork.org/index.htm
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