Belvedere Youth Club held a special mass and a concert in April to celebrate their 90th year in operation. Their after-schools programme continues to see more than 160 children a day avail of their services which include sports, nutrition, drama, computers, arts & crafts, and homework assistance. Located in the Dublin’s inner city, they also seek to help at-risk young people through their youth diversion programme, NICKOL, which works in collaboration with the local Gardai. Their ability to provide this whole range of services is currently hampered by funding difficulties and a shortage of volunteers and staff, the latter through delays caused by the new Garda vetting procedures. [Photo: PJ McAllister, Chairman; Paul Brady, Director; Gillian Collins, Community Employment Supervisor; Brendan O’Leary, board member.]
Overview of Belvedere Youth Club 2008 – By Paul Brady, Director
Belvedere Youth Club originated when Belvedere Social Services assumed responsibility for two existing inner city Youth Clubs in 1918. From this beginning it has grown into the largest Youth Club in the State.
Known as the Belvedere Newsboys Club until 1969, the Club ran a variety of Educational and Recreational Programmes, including Sports, Summer Camps, Literacy and Remedial Education, from a number of locations in the inner city. In 1972 the Club engaged its first full-time Director and admitted girls as members. Its name was changed to Belvedere Youth Club. Throughout its History Belvedere College through the past pupils union has supported and developed the club to make it what it is today. The Chairperson is directly appointed by the College union for a term of up to three years and it is he who is responsible for ensuring that we have sufficient funds to provide the services to the young people that we work with.
In 1991, after several changes in location within the North Inner City, fundraising initiatives enabled the Club to raise the £650,000 necessary to move to permanent, custom-built premises in Buckingham Street. Facilities include, a Sports Hall, Gymnasium, Training Kitchen, Computer Training Facilities, Theatre facilities, ceramics and pottery, Recreational areas, Changing Rooms, and Showers. Belvedere Youth Club currently has to raise over 170,000 Euro per year by voluntary means and employs three full time staff directly. We sponsor a FAS Community employment project, which also allows us to employ up to 14 part-time workers. We currently have a membership of over 350 local children and young people from the ages of 7 to 20 years of age making us one of the largest facilities of its type in the country. The North Inner City is one of the most deprived areas in the country. There is a multiplicity of social problems such as high criminal involvement of all age groups, drug and substance abuse are among the highest in the country, low Educational achievement is accepted as normal for many families, and it has an extremely high percentage of single parent families. The incidence of H.I.V and Aids is also way above the National average.
The youth club is one of the most popular projects in the Inner City for children and in some families its almost a rite of passage that they join the club that their parents attended when they were children. I myself joined the youth club when I was 13 years old having followed my two older brothers in and indeed my Father when he was a newspaper seller on the streets of Dublin over half a Century ago. It is this long tradition and History that makes the Belvedere youth club special and to this day past members (old boys) still return to the club for an annual retreat where they recall their childhoods spent in the youth club from Decades past.
Our programmes are many and varied and we start each day off with our after schools programme. Activities include the following:
AIMS & OBJECTIVES
* To provide a Comprehensive youth Service to young people in the North Inner City.
* To organise Social, Educational, and Recreational Programmes for members.
* Through such activities to prepare those young people for their future.
* To organise Programmes the benefit the wider inner city community
After Schools Programme
Up to 14 part time employees under the direction of a Supervisor, run an After Schools Programme from 3 to 7pm Monday to Friday. These employees would be categorized as being long term unemployed and would receive training to enhance their prospects of returning to the work force. Catering for up to 120 young people per day between 7 and 20 years of age. During this programme up to 60 hot meals per day may be cooked for the Children taking part; the Programme also includes:
– Sports Coaching, Health and Fitness Education.
– Drama, Communication, and Life Skills.
– Computer Literacy and Word Processing Skills.
– Arts and Crafts and Play Related Activity
– Ceramics Classes
– School Support and Homework club
Managed by a full-time Sports Coach and other voluntary Coaches, boys and girls’ from three age groups are coached in a variety of sports including; Volleyball, Basketball, Table Tennis, Soccer, etc and are then entered into various leagues and competitions. The youth club also represents the North East Inner City in the annual Community games events and has won several Dublin titles over the years. Encouraging young people to participate in sporting activity has the added benefit of promoting a healthier lifestyle while issues such as obesity and diabetes are on the increase.
Computer Training – We have been providing computer literacy classes for many years now and as with all our programmes regular and continuous evaluation keeps programmes relevant. Adapting to the current needs and trends of our members has led us to provide an Internet café type space to operate our computer training project. Children no longer want to feel as if they are still in a school setting and so the informal environment of the Internet café provides the ideal atmosphere to encourage learning among all age groups.
Youth Club Nights/ Drop-in Programme
Five nights a week from 7:30 to 9:30 pm the Club is open to members for recreational and sporting activities. This allows the club to provide for the spare time needs of children and young people late into the night when they are most vulnerable of being caught up in criminal activity and/or drug abuse. This programme is also aimed at promoting Voluntarism within our organisation and is mainly staffed by Volunteers from the various third level College’s around the City as well as the local Community. Recently introduced vetting procedures have become a barrier to the smooth flow of Volunteer numbers into the youth club. This issue needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Youth Theatre Group
With support from the Ireland Funds we received funding to employ a former youth club member as our full time drama director. Over the past four years the club has been in the process of developing a youth theatre group. We have staged several plays and shows in various theatres. We are also in the process of renovating a room in the youth club into a theatre type space complete with stage. For those young people who do not participate in sporting activity we have found that participation in this particular programme increases their self- confidence and encourages better social interaction with their peers. Starting this September our drama teacher will commence a training course on “drama directing” in Maynooth College and the experience gained from this course will further enhance our drama programme. One large show is performed each year in the O’Reilly Theatre which is supported year-round by in house shows and work shops.
Holiday and Outdoor Education Programmes
Run from the Club’s cottage in Co. Wexford. Over 120 members are given Summer Holidays each year. These Holidays are free of charge and for some of the children who attend it is the only holiday their families can afford. Situated in the seaside town of Blackwater the cottage is a facility that is in use all year round. Week-end breaks and special one off treats for groups are also a feature of this programme, which culminates in our annual summer camp.
Adult Education Programmes
Designed to promote Life Skills and enable participants to take a wider role in community activities. All participants on our Community Employment project receive on-going training as part of their work with us which will assist them in securing fulltime employment when they leave us. Areas of training include:
– Youth studies
– Health and Fitness Education
– Nutritional Education.
– Literacy and Communication Skills
– Special needs assistant training
– Computer literacy etc.
Links with Local Schools
The Club has recently initiated an educationally based programme with the local Community College, which allows us to assist some of our members with extra studies during their transition year. This programme involves youth club staff working alongside teachers in the classroom to give one to one support to weaker students. It is the opinion of teachers that these young people would not be strong enough to start 5th year in school if they did not participate in this programme and would ultimately drop out without sitting their leaving cert. At Primary School Level the youth club Director is the Chairperson of Central Model Senior School and as such is well placed to assist Children on various school based issues as they arise.
The club sponsors a youth diversion programme, which is a response from the Department of Justice to address the issue of juvenile crime in the local Community. Here 20 young people who have been identified by local Garda juvenile liaison officers attend a special programme run by the club in an attempt to keep them from further criminal activity and drug abuse. For this particular group of young people, this project is seen as their last chance before a custodial sentence is handed down.
School attendance is seen as a vital element to keeping young people out of trouble and ensuring that some educational qualification is attained. Close links with parents and other statutory agencies working with these young people such as social workers, school attendance officers, probation officers etc. ensure that every chance is given to these members to keep them from the lure of criminal activity. An increase in the numbers of staff members to 3 fulltime people will allow the project to offer Family Therapy as well as Cognitive behaviour therapy in a bid to address the underlying causes to the behaviour of these young people.
City of Dublin Youth Service Board (C.D.Y.S.B.)
One of the goals of the management of the club has been to encourage state support for our work. Indeed throughout the history of the club state funding has proved to be the most difficult area to secure. However recent publicity of the work of the youth club led to a meeting with Government officials, and the youth club was finally included in the grant scheme for special projects. This now sees an annual grant of 60’000 euros (min) being made available to us.
2007 was a significant year for the youth club. Direct state funding was secured resulting from the Director being awarded the 2007 Irish music awards Humanitarian award together with a cheque for 1000’000 euro. He now joins the ranks of Elton John, Bono, Christina Noble, Sr. Stanaslau Kennedy, Adi Roache and Fr, Peter Mc Verry as receipints of this award. 2008 will be another significant year as the club celebrates its 90th year in March.
The average member of the youth club can participate in up to 17 hours per week of positive structured activities and programmes which out side of school hours is a significant chunk of their spare time. These hours increase for members participating in some of the various sporting programmes we provide as matches and competitions against other clubs and groups mainly take place on weekends. One of the main aims of our programming is to cater for the spare time needs of our members at the times we feel they are most vulnerable. Consequently all our activities commence in the afternoon and continue into the evening and night-time. With the continued expansion of programmes the youth club now employs three fulltime youth workers directly and needs to raise up to 170’000 euro per year by voluntary means to cover all our overheads. This is an increasingly burdensome task which the above mentioned grant makes little inroads into.
For further information on any of the above please contact Paul Brady, Club Director, on 01-8550282 or call in to 41 Lower Buckingham Street any day after 2:00 PM.