Neighbourhood youth projects turn 40

North inner-city Dublin projects ‘beacons of hope’ for families in disadvantaged area

Jamie Mangan, who grew up in Dublin 1 and now is a youth worker in the area. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Jamie Mangan, who grew up in Dublin 1 and now is a youth worker in the area. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Jamie Mangan (24), from Summerhill in Dublin’s north inner city, had a “tough” childhood. He had dyspraxia and ADHD, was repeatedly suspended from school and getting into trouble “hanging around with the wrong young fellas”.

Now a youth worker in the same area, he says joining the local neighbourhood youth project (NYP) aged 13 “saved my life”.

Known as NYP2 in the area, it supports children aged 12 to 21. It is funded by Tusla and along with NYP1, which supports children aged five to 12, they are the oldest NYPs in the country and celebrate their 40th anniversary this year.

Tusla, usually associated with taking children into care, is this week celebrating its work supporting vulnerable families and children. National Child and Family Support Week will see a series of events showcasing Tusla’s early-intervention supports – such as after-school groups, parents and toddler groups, youth services and parenting supports.

The north inner-city NYPs have been described as “beacons of hope” for families in an area which has been devastated by intergenerational poverty, early school-leaving, statutory neglect and ongoing problems with crime and open drug dealing on the streets.

Being a child in the area was “very tough”, says Jamie.

“You couldn’t go out anywhere without something happening to you – getting hit or slagged. From the age of six older fellas, about 13 or 14, would just hit you for the craic. You’d get so you didn’t want to go out.

“Then school for me was very hard. I was first in a school around here and I made friends but then I was sent to school in Crumlin because I have dyspraxia and ADHD. So it was hard for me. It felt a bit mad going all the way to Crumlin. It was just out of the comfort zone. I had no friends over there. I was getting suspended week in, week out.”

An only child, his parents spilt up when he was 10. “It had a massive impact on me, because I could only see my dad once a week. I missed him.

“At home I was hanging around with the wrong people, young fellas who were getting into trouble with gardaí and all that. It was just like, they were there and doing stuff for the buzz.

“I started coming to the NYP in September 2008, when I was 13. My mam brought me down and got me into the club. My da and uncles were members. It’s great. This club really did do a lot for me. It was like finding a family.”

Exchange trips

He loves football and was encouraged to play and eventually join a local team, and also learned to play guitar. He has been on several exchange trips with the NYP2 to Germany, with German young people from similar backgrounds visiting the area in return.

He completed his Leaving Certificate, a course in youth work and a three-week Career Leap programme run by Trinity College for young adults, and has handed in CVs “everywhere” he says.

“No one gets back to me though. The address: Dublin 1. As soon as employers see it the CV is in the bin. It is an issue. Young people around here 100 per cent feel it. It’s not fair.”

John Peelo, manager of the younger children’s NYP1, and Anthony Corcoran who runs NYP2, see both the huge potential of, and obstacles faced by, children in the area. They point to “disadvantage, trauma and adverse childhood experiences like dealing with addiction, mental health problems, inadequate housing, homelessness”.

And though the services like theirs can hope to mitigate some of the worst impacts, they agree “large-scale and long-term investment” in the area must come if the cycle of poverty is to be broken for children and young people there now.