Y-Connect 2023 Celebrations in Cork​

June 2023

“Kindness is giving hope to those who think they’re all alone in this world. It’s seeing the best in others when they cannot see it in themselves.”

On June 7, YMCA Cork had a lovely time showcasing the work of YMCA Cork Region with Y-Connect 2023. We heard inspiring stories from Youth Vocation, Youth Health, Youth Advocacy, Youth Spaces and Family Support and enjoyed food, music, laughter and fun together. Thanks to everyone who came and helped us celebrate another fantastic year! Here are a few highlights:

Youth Vocation

Y-Connect was a brilliant forum this year to do exactly as it set out…connect people.  There was a great turn out and two of the young people from STEP spoke of the opportunities they received from being part of the youth vocation programme this past year as well as the new adventures awaiting them as a result of their hard work and the commitment of the team.  

Emer Barrett and Sharon O’Connell gave a background to the Integration project, whose core aim is to support Ukrainian youth currently living in Cork city and county by firstly providing some fun activities for them and helping them integrate by signposting them to safe youth spaces and services which can offer them longer term support.as integration youth workers. They are working with Ukrainian youth, throughout the county, setting up activities and creating opportunities for them to integrate into local communities. 

All in all, it was a fantastic evening of sharing. We got to see what people and projects were going on in Cork City and further afield. It was a wonderful opportunity to see what was happening across the other departments and lovely to be part of the certificate presentation to the Leaders in Training who came from several different programmes including Youth Vocation.

Youth Health

Isla from Youth health provided an update on her counselling service and the chaplaincy programme, interviewing our wonderful volunteer chaplain Evancia, and sharing the amazing personal growth experienced by our participants across all programmes.

We also heard and saw photos of the Monday Night Live gig, hosted on Monday May 29th, which was attended by approximately 40 young people over the course of the evening. It was a showcase of the great talent in the MNL community and was a huge success!

Youth Advocacy

We had an exciting presentation from Katie, a Cork City Comhairle na nOg member who was one of two Irish youth delegates to the UN conference on the rights of the child. She presented about technological developments and called for better understanding and regulation of social media, privacy, algorithms and artificial intelligence, particularly as these important topics relate to the wellbeing of today’s youth.

We also had a video link with Aleesha and Mark, who were in Greenhill for ‘Local to Global’ 2023, a conference looking for local solutions to global issues and unitign YMCAs all across Ireland. 35 people gathered together for the day, including young people, staff, volunteers and the rest of the sector, participating in discussions, workshops, and creative activities, all filmed and documented by our team of Youth Reporters

It was incredible to hear about global youth work. The conversations were very fruitful, and they had a representative from all over the Irish movement as well as YCare International. There are so many exciting activities happening at the moment, and it’s exciting to see so many others engaging with the SGDs. Key to our strategy are the SDGs of Climate Action, Health and Wellbeing, and sustainable communities. We are all united in our commitment to tackle these at both a local and global level. Solid solutions all around!

Family Support

We heard from the different work elements of the Family Support team, Parent Support and Youth Work. We described the different ways we invite families to be part of our main focus, making happy memories with families. Building social competence, participation, physical wellbeing, spirituality and relationships with parents. We do this through our work with groups, family support and Meitheals. PAKT has 12 groups running in Ballincollig, Blarney and Cobh. 9 for primary aged children, 2 teens groups and the Bridge group. We have 2 parent support workers, 3 Youth workers, 1 ESC Volunteer and 1 volunteer. 

Our Bridge Group supports 15 young people who are about to enter their first year of secondary school. In Bridge we cover topics such as friendship skills, individual strengths and abilities, resolving conflict, coping with stress, online safety (and more) through fun games and activities. 

We saw photos from PAKTs recent family event in the Sirius Art centre. Families enjoyed arts and crafts and sewing together. We provided a sensory room for anyone who wished to use it. The sensory room was popular and became a quiet space for families to unwind as well as being a safe space for anyone who has sensory issues. We open registration to our Sirius family days to everyone. 

Lesley and Tricia from the PAKT (Parents and Kids Together) program spoke about how they work with children, young people and their families in Cobh. They gave examples of how PAKT provides a consistent point of connection for children and parents throughout the ups and downs of daily life. They also spoke about supporting families in crisis when there is a gap in other services in the area.

Finally, Lea, our ESC volunteer, is finishing up with us on July 14th. We would like to thank Lea for her contribution, for being a great team member and for her kind and caring approach to working with groups. We will miss you Lea and we wish you the very best in the future. 

Youth Spaces

We heard about the recent launch of the Carbery youth service in Clonakilty, which was a big success, drawing in young people, community leaders, parents and other networks to celebrate the incredible work of our UBU projects in Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Dunmanway. The young leaders in attendance spoke passionately about the opportunity they have to create beneficial spaces and experiences for themselves and their peers. During the week, 10 of them were awarded certificates for completing their LIT (Leaders in Training) programme.

Áine and Zen also presented certificates to 8 of our young leaders who participated in and completed the Cork City Leaders In Training course for 2023. The LIT course is going really well, drawing together the ideas, inspiration and energy of a whole new wave of young people who are busy making YMCA Cork their second home. Each of them have joined us in powerful ways to make sure that we truly are becoming a place of Welcome, Wellbeing, Opportunity and Peace and Justice.

One particular comment summed it all up: “Kindness is giving hope to those who think they’re all alone in this world. It’s seeing the best in others when they cannot see it in themselves. That’s the confidence I discovered in GroundFloor.”

At the end of the evening, we even had a song, entitled “Live Your Story” from young leader Emma who dedicated it as a thank you to the staff and volunteers of GroundFloor, for all of their kind work and support making these life changing experiences possible, in safe, fun spaces, led by young people, for young people.