Summer jobs are hard to come by but community and friends are priceless

Young people are more aware of family finances than their parents think


I came to live in Ireland from a village in Somalia, when I was 13. My two sisters, my parents and I stayed in Mosney after arriving. I got to know a girl in Mosney, another refugee who managed to get a part-time job. I was intrigued by how she had her own money and she was able to buy things.

I was also struck by the girl’s independence and her ability to travel from Mosney into the centre of Dublin. It was my first time to see a person around my age managing their own resources.

After 10 months my family and I moved to our new home in a housing estate in Balbriggan. I noticed that all the young people around me had bicycles, skate boards, scooters and roller skates. I couldn’t get over the different models and designs. I had never seen materialism before.

Back in Africa we were happy with a football: iPhone or iPads just weren’t part of our lives. I knew nothing about brand names but it didn’t take me long to catch up.

I rarely ask my parents for money so I have to be ingenious about how I get what I want. I have had some work and I have to be really careful with the money to make it stretch.

I love technology so when I got my first laptop and my first earphones I was really happy. And I mind both possessions carefully. My earphones are almost permanently around my neck. I have never let them fall. They are so precious to me. I take care of both possessions. They mean a lot.

In this recession, the shortage of summer jobs means that fewer young people can make their own money. Everything comes with a price tag and there are few activities that we can do without money.

When I finished my Leaving Cert I felt a responsibility to get a job straight after and to help my family financially. However, my parents expected me to go to college and I’m grateful now that I have this chance.

I’m lucky enough to be in second year at university and I hear an underlying anxiety about money from some students and they often speak about the cost of being involved in clubs and societies. This anxiety is shaping how we all spend our time in college. And it can affect how we enjoy the social side of college. When we lose connections with other students we can end up isolated and that makes everything harder.

Young people are very aware of family finances. I know lots of parents don’t think so because we often demand so much. But, when the My World survey was done, financial worries emerged as one of the key themes for young people in Ireland.

Lots of young people hang around my estate and my town with little to do. So I have chosen to volunteer on a few projects to help use my time in a positive way. I enjoy the company of the other people involved and I’m learning new skills and this always encourages me.

I’m also trying to do some study which should help when I go back to university in September. I help out at home and I encourage my sisters to join Foróige youth club where I volunteer as a youth leader.

Staying motivated
I don’t find it hard to stay motivated because there are definitely more opportunities available to me here in Dublin than I had when I lived in Somalia.

What I have learned in life is that community, connection and friendships are priceless and that while my laptop gives me joy, I get more from being involved in my community and I gain lots more from giving.

I used to think that all socialising cost money but volunteering has taught me that I can learn new stuff and I’m often inspired by the other people I meet.

It certainly helps to get me out of bed and to keep some routine in the absence of a summer job or college.

Herbert Innocent is a member of the youth advisory panel to Headstrong – the National Centre for Youth Mental Health.

Tony Bates is on summer leave.

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