Slight change of plan for this weeks news sheet… Joy has kindly let me take control and bring you this feature which gives a little insight into my experience with Larne YMCA.
I first joined Larne YMCA at the mere age of 7 after hearing from my friends how great it was, after persuading my parents I finally able to join the Afterschool’s Programme back in 2003… it still feels like just yesterday! I can remember Leanne picking me up from school each day, William’s experimental football games (I think crab football was tested along with many others) and Laura’s moves on the dance mats. After a few years of attending Afterschools I gradually moved into youth club, becoming one of the regular members, attending several nights per week and inviting along all my friends from school. I have seen first hand the growth, development and expansion of the youth club through David and Karen to where Dean has got it today. It has gone from working with only a handful of young people each week to working with over 250 young people each week!!! Youth club is where I feel that I really flourished as an individual. Through opportunities given to me I have been able to become a qualified lifeguard & swim teacher, be awarded with the Princess Diana Award and undertake several OCNs over the years. Progressing through the roles of member, junior leader and assistant youth support worker I have been able to develop my leadership skills, run programmes for other young people and make memories that will last a lifetime.
In recent years the “crème de la crème” has been taking over the role of Youth Support Worker in Charge of the Autism Programme after completing my OCN in youth work practice. It has been this role that has challenged me most throughout the past 2 years and has not only tested my patience, communication and leadership but also my skills as a youth worker. O. Ivar Lovaas, once said that “If they can’t learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn.” I have never heard a truer phrase when talking about autism – every child with autism is unique, they all learn and process things differently, they defy our expectations and challenge us to think in new ways. Getting to know each of these young people over the past 3 years has been a true pleasure, seeing the growth and development they have made from the beginning is truly remarkable. Before leaving I had the privilege of taking 25 of our young people from the autism programme away on a two night residential, giving parents some much needed respite. Having gone into it with expectations of no sleep, full of issues and challenging for the staff team… I am happy to say that it was the complete opposite! All of the young people, some of which it was their first time away from parents, had a ball! Everybody was able to push themselves and overcome challenges, to say that I came away from the weekend on a high would be an understatement. Coming home from that, It was very hard to pass the reins over to someone else but I’m sure that Leanne will do a great job in the interim!
Even after leaving here is some of the great work that I have heard of this week happening in Larne YMCA.
Both youth club and autism this week have had bouncy castles in and partied in style to give me a great send off. Thank you to Dean and Leanne for organising all of the activities over the past week.
The Board of Management and YMCA day staff met today to discuss things we do well as an organisation, opportunities for improvement and what we envisage for the future. A great success which will have follow up discussions within the coming weeks, thanks to Dean for facilitating this conversation.
Celebrations continue this week for youth club as Jasmin, our placement student from the University of Ulster, finishes with us also. Her passion for youth work, commitment and all round bubbly personality has been a great addition to the team over the past 10 weeks – thank you for all your hard work Jasmin and good luck with the future!
To bring things to a close, I would just like to thank everyone that has helped and supported me throughout the years and has helped me flourished into the individual I am today. To end with a quote… “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good bye so hard.” — Winnie The Pooh
And with that I bid you farewell, it has been a pleasure.