In our last blog post, we shared the typical experience and challenges of a young person from the Roma community.
This week, we’ll be looking at a group that is slightly closer to home, so to speak. A group that faces an entirely different set of struggles, but are nonetheless in as much need of as any group we work with.
You are Danny*, a 14 year old boy from the Milltown estate in South Belfast. You love your community, your mates all live a stone’s throw away, people down at the shop know you by name, and you are only a ten minute walk away from School (although you still take the bus because who could be bothered walking?).
You live with your mum and your older sister, and you get on with them–most of the time. But sometimes they take little notice of you, and you often feel left out and left alone. You don’t see your Dad very often because he’s always busy and even when you get to see him, he seems more pre-occupied with his new girlfriend–and his new children.
You still love him of course and you want him to be part of your life, but if you’re honest with yourself it feels a bit one-way.
School is difficult at times as well; not because you don’t like it, but because you find it really difficult to concentrate. When you’re outside playing football with your mates you feel amazing–like you could take on the world. But when you go back into Maths class after lunch, you’re so full of energy that your brain just doesn't want to focus on what you’re meant to do.
You get distracted by your friend in the corner and all of a sudden you find yourself getting shouted at for being disruptive. That amazing feeling that you experienced outside quickly fades, replaced instead by embarrassment.
You get into trouble like that quite often
When your mates start to throw eggs at windows or spray-paint walls or steal from the shop down the road, you’re never the one who starts it but, somehow, you always end up being the one that gets caught. You can’t seem to say no, no matter how badly you might want to.
When you get home, your mum is busy on the phone, your sister is in her room with the door firmly locked, and so you go upstairs and sit alone. You feel lonely–you’ve felt like that quite a lot recently.
Then you hear a knock at your door, followed by a muffled “Is Danny coming out?” And you suddenly remember that it’s a Tuesday–which means that Dreamscheme is on!
You’re suddenly full of energy and excitement
You get on well with the leaders there. They take the time to talk to you, and make you feel like you’re actually matter. They don’t get angry (well, most of the time!), even when you misbehave, and being around them and your mates makes you want to try harder. Even the workshops aren’t so bad, as long as they don’t take up too much football time!
Dreamscheme means a lot to you, and sometimes you feel like it’s the best part of your week. At Dreamscheme, you get to feel amazing again.
Milltown & Belvoir Dreamscheme
Danny represents many of the young people from the Belvoir and Milltown area, where Dreamscheme has worked for the past ten years. Currently, 25 young people participate in Dreamscheme's youth programme, which is based out of Milltown Baptist Church's halls.
Of course, each person's story is unique and special in its own way. But there are striking similarities that run throughout the group, such as lone parent families, anti-social behaviour and difficulties in school. The young people of Belvoir and Milltown, like the children of the Roma community benefit greatly from having a place where they can feel that they truly matter, where they are listened to, and where they feel like they can actually achieve anything they set their mind to.
We believe that every young person is endowed with dignity, purpose and an incredible potential, and through our support and care, we aim to help them appreciate this for themselves.
Please consider supporting our team as we run the Belfast Marathon on 7th May 2018. To make a donation, visit our Givey Fundraising Page–and help us support more young people like Danny in the Belvoir and Milltown communities.
*Name changed for child protection purposes.
Stephen McCombe, Youth Worker @ Dreamscheme