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Donegal Travellers Project offers a broad range of programmes and activities for young people.

The work of the DTP’s youth initiatives, the DTP-Involve Letterkenny Youth Project, have ranged from afterschool programmes, to youth groups, specific programmes and family support with children on the edge of or in care.

The National Youth Council of Ireland defines youth work, above all, as “an educational and developmental process, based on young people’s active and voluntary participation and commitment”. While youth work is for all young people, there is a particular focus on providing culturally appropriate activities and initiatives for people from age 10 to 25 from all aspects of Irish life.

The Youth Work Act 2001 gave the initiative formal statutory recognition, and saw youth work as a “planned programme of education designed for the purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and social development of young people through their voluntary involvement”. Youth work is complementary to young people’s formal, academic or vocational education and training, a form of “non-formal education”.

Interculturalism and anti-racism are also important elements of youth work, which promotes participation between all young people and recognises and respects differences and diversity, as well as providing culturally appropriate programmes for young participants.

The publication of National Traveller and Roma Strategy in 2017 was timely and coincided with the important recognition of Traveller ethnicity. DTP youth actions reflect the priorities and needs of the young people of these communities that were identified in the national strategy.

The impact of the government’s decision to finally recognise Travellers as an ethnic group has had an effect on Travellers of all ages. (See section on Culture) DTP hosted workshops in the meaning of the landmark decision with all the participants of the DTP-Involve Letterkenny Youth Project. Older groups focused on the commonalities with other indigenous ethnic minorities and represented it artistically in their St. Patrick’s Day parade float in Letterkeny. A younger participant and his parents reported that the recognition gave him the confidence and articulation to stand up to the bullying he had been subjected to at school and to tell a teacher what he wanted done about it.

The purpose of youth work, as outlined by the National Youth Council of Ireland, include building young people’s self-esteem and self-confidence, developing their ability to manage personal and social relationships, offering worthwhile and challenging new experiences, providing learning opportunities to enable young people to gain knowledge and develop new skills, helping young people to develop social awareness and a sense of social solidarity, giving young people a voice in decision-making that affects their lives, enhancing young people’s roles as active citizens, and listening to what young people have to say.

A look at the youth programmes the DTP-Involve Letterkenny Youth Project offers illustrates the broad reach of DTP initiatives for young people:

Afterschool programmes

Traveller underachievement in formal education settings and early school leaving is well documented. No other culturally appropriate educational supports and services exist in the county for young Travellers. The objectives of DTP’s afterschool initiative are to provide culturally appropriate educational supports, to support young Travellers’ retention in formal education, and to provide developmental activities to enhance outcomes for Travellers in school settings and to complement formal education, with such activities as art, drama, language and literacy development; and sporting activities.

Toward this end, DTP hosts afterschool programmes and a homework support from September through Christmas and January through the summer, in collaboration with Donegal Local Development Company. The programme offers such complementary activities as storytelling, drama, sports, and art. The work is underpinned by the aim of building pride in Traveller culture and identity.

Drop-in evenings

Donegal Travellers’ Project hosts a weekly drop-in for young people at its Letterkenny offices every Thursday from 5.30 to 8pm, where they can come together and enjoy games, pool, chat, and refreshments.

Sports and arts camps

These initiatives offered opportunities to young Traveller women and men that they would not otherwise receive, in order to build their capacity to avail of youth services and facilities. The activities were designed to complement and improve Traveller participation in formal education subjects.

Another initiative that DTP encourages young Travellers to take part in, Junk Kouture, is a national competition that encourages young designers in second-level education to create couture designs and wearable art from everyday items that would normally end up in the bin. The programme is designed to inspire young designers while educating them about the importance of recycling and reusing waste. DTP has offered Junk Kouture and camp activities for young Travellers age 5-18, hosted in collaboration with the DTP Primary Health Care Project.

Food and nutrition course for young women

Cookery was the most requested activity that young Travellers in the Letterkenny area selected in a recent youth needs assessment.

The 10-week programme in food and nutrition that DTP offers was designed to provide a safe place for young Traveller women, to provide the opportunity to achieve a formal qualification (QQI level 5), to create the conditions for learning and peer support, and to improve attainment in formal education.

This course was hosted in collaboration with the DTP Primary Health Care Project.

Mind Out

DTP-Involve Letterkenny Youth Project was part of a nationwide programme to introduce the mental health programme Mind Out on a pilot basis in 2017. The pilot provided a valuable experience to make the initiative more relevant to young Travellers and members of other ethnic minority communities.

Mind Out was developed to explore methods of dealing with stress and depression with young people, and to provide a safe environment for young people to discuss the issues that are affecting them

Specific modules were tailored to the needs of the young participants, in a programme that engaged the services of NUI Galway, which piloted the programme on behalf of the HSE. Mind Out built on five central elements, identified as essential for social and emotional learning: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, and responsible decision-making.

Graffiti art project

UV Arts in Derry work with Donegal Travellers’ Project to bring this initiative to young Travellers, working with them to express themselves through spray-painting.

Driving theory

Donegal Travellers’ Project offers courses in driver theory for young Travellers.

Leadership programmes

This National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy-based programme was designed to provide Traveller youth with opportunities to take part in culturally appropriate youth programmes that meet their needs, and to improve confidence among young Travellers in their identity and abilities.

In its leadership programme for young Travellers, DTP-Involve Letterkenny Youth Project has used drama to explore communication and to support the mental well-being and resilience of Travellers in a youth work setting, working with travellers from age 15-20.

Donegal Travellers’ Project also offers a sports leadership programme that provides young Travellers an opportunity to develop their organisation and communication skills, and teaches them how to mentor others and use their leadership skills in different settings.

The sports leadership programme also has a special focus on physical activity and healthy eating for young people.

Donegal Youth Council

DTP worked with young Travellers to increase the representation of Traveller youth and young people from other ethnic minorities in youth organisations that are relevant to them.

Following a nomination and selection process, the young candidates selected were ratified by the management of Donegal Travellers’ Project and two young Travellers took representative roles on the Donegal Youth Council.

The youth council is made up of 33 young people from each of the secondary schools in Donegal as well as from different youth clubs and organisations around the county. The council prioritises issues of importance to the county’s young people and works to achieve progress on them.

DTP serves on the Donegal Youth Council steering group and supports the young Travellers who serve on the council.