Young people from Rathgill attracted the attention of the Northern Ireland’s Children’s Commissioner last week.
Patricia Lewsley visited Rathgill estate last Thursday, March 10, to see for herself the volume of work young people from the area have carried out in response to some of the negative issues such as youth unemployment and drug-use that affect their peer group.
Karen Worrall, Rathgill community development worker told the Community Telegraph: “I have been working with the kids from this area for the last few years and this action plan really is their vision for their future and also acts as their guide to address and resolve problems young people in the area face.
“This does include the terrible situation in the area where there were an increasing amount of young people abusing gas solvents. Some of the work under the youth action plan has gone a long way to addressing this in the estate. Young people have worked closely with the PSNI and have lobbied with the local store Nisa to remove solvents from the store.
“Education is a major part of their plan too and many of the young people have attained accreditations as a result of carrying out this extensive piece of work that has already reached out into the community to achieve some very positive results.
“The action plan is an evolving piece of work and highlights the important role young people play in this community. As part of the plan, young people in the area have just completed a ten week programme on addressing all the aspects that are deemed anti-social behaviour — they understand the effects ASB has on their estate and individual livlihoods and take these issues very seriously.
“I am really proud of them all, their thoughts and ideas form such an important part of the Rathgill Community.”
Commenting after the event Ms Lewsley said: “ I very much enjoyed my visit to the launch of the Rathgill Action Plan and to have the opportunity to hear first hand more about some of the work and activities that young people from the Project are involved in.
“It is important to acknowledge the hard work and dedication these young people have shown so I was pleased to be able to present certificates to recognise this.
“Too often many young people are labelled with negative stereotypes and accused wrongly of antisocial behaviour. These stereotypes need to be challenged and so I welcome the fact that young people themselves have taken the initiative, seeking to address the issue in a constructive and progressive manner.
“I hope the youth development plan will go some way to changing perceptions, so that young people are portrayed more positively and in a more balanced way.”