Celebrating 15 Years of Youth Work

On 14th June 2019, the Dreamscheme team joined with a large gathering of funders and friends to celebrate 15 years of making a positive difference in the lives of at-risk young people. Set up in 2004, Dreamscheme is now delivering youth intervention and support projects in five communities and three schools across South/East Belfast and Castlereagh.

new chief executive pays tribute to youth workers

At the lunch-time event, Dreamscheme Northern Ireland’s recently appointed Chief Executive, Stephen Mullan, paid tribute to the influence and impact of the charity’s youth workers:

“Every day our youth workers pour so much energy, effort, thought and wisdom into the lives of young people.

Last year, our team supported more than 120 young people every week and more than 250 during the summer. Our 2018 programme involved 20 key projects and young people benefited from approximately 200 group activities and 300 individual mentoring sessions. In total, our youth workers had close to 6000 interactions with young people over the year.

Today is a day to celebrate the impact of all that hard work.”

Stephen Mullan (Chief Executive of Dreamscheme) shares highlights from 2018

Stephen Mullan (Chief Executive of Dreamscheme) shares highlights from 2018

annual report highlights impact of dreamscheme

At the Celebration Event, Stephen also introduced the Annual Report for 2018, which highlights the positive difference Dreamscheme has made in the lives of many at-risk young people over the past year. Key impacts highlighted in the annual report include:

  • 100+ young people from all centres completed 6 workshops on life skills

  • 85 young people diverted during bonfire season

  • 70+ young people participated in good relations workshops and cross-community activities

  • 60% of young people progressed from “not motivated” to “motivated” to participate in Dreamscheme programmes

  • 26 young people with mental health problems completed 12 weeks of mentoring in school

  • 825 individual acts of community service undertaken by young people from all centre

Current and past participants of Dreamscheme with youth workers Lizzie Brown, Emma Foy, Stephen McCombe and chief executive Stephen Mullan.

Current and past participants of Dreamscheme with youth workers Lizzie Brown, Emma Foy, Stephen McCombe and chief executive Stephen Mullan.

young people share their experience of dreamscheme

During a short Q&A session, Katie and Zara spoke passionately about the impact of Dreamscheme in their own life.

Katie shared her story first:

“When I joined Dreamscheme, I really struggled with my self-esteem and had low confidence. But the workshops that we did in Dreamscheme really helped me. I have also been encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and speak in front of different groups of people. As a result of this and the help of my leaders, I was able to achieve an A* in my GCSE English presentation.”

Zara also spoke of her struggles with self-esteem and image:

“When I first came to Dreamscheme I struggled with comparing myself to other people. Self-esteem is a massive problem among girls. Through Dreamscheme we did workshops that helped us think about image and our own identity. I’ve learned that we’re all unique and that I don’t have to try to be like everyone else. I can be my own person.

As I came to an end of Dreamscheme, I really wanted to give back to the next generation. So, for the last few years, I have been volunteering as a youth leader and have loved being a positive influence on younger girls who are going through the same challenges that I faced.”

Zara and Katie share their experiences of Dreamscheme

Zara and Katie share their experiences of Dreamscheme

PANEL DISCUSSion highlights growing mental health problems among YOUNG PEOPLE

The event also included a panel discussion on the emerging needs of young people.

Mark McFeeters (Lecturer in Community Youth Work at University of Ulster) spoke about the continuing issues around drugs and alcohol, as well as the rise in mental health problems among teenagers. He also raised the importance of “below the surface” needs, including struggles around identity and fitting in. Mark highlighted the impact of a young people not being able to cope with the pace of life today.

Gillian Scott (Senior Teacher at Breda Academy) underlined the growing problem of mental health issues, including the impact that social media is having on young people’s lack of self-esteem and self-confidence.

From her perspective as a community-based youth worker, Lizzie Brown (Senior Youth Worker at Dreamscheme NI) spoke of the rising stress levels and the feeling of hopelessness that she is seeing in more and more young people.

Mark McFeeters (University of Ulster), Gillian Scott (Breda Academy) and Lizzie Brown (Dreamscheme) discuss emerging youth needs

Mark McFeeters (University of Ulster), Gillian Scott (Breda Academy) and Lizzie Brown (Dreamscheme) discuss emerging youth needs

going forward with compassion and commitment

During his closing remarks, Stephen Mullan spoke of Dreamscheme’s vision for young people:

“As you know, we have a Christian ethos to our work, and I think anyone who gets to see our workers in action knows the genuine love that they have for every young person, no matter their background.

We see ourselves as an extension of family life – providing a stable environment where young people can grow up, surrounded by youth workers and role models who support them with genuine compassion and commitment."

To find out more about the work and impact of Dreamscheme in the past year, you can access our annual report for 2018 here.