Lisburn youth project receives half millionlottery boost

A LISBURN project that offers job opportunities for vulnerable young adults has been awarded £498,700 from the Big Lottery Fund.

YMCA Lisburn will use the grant to help young people involved in crime and anti-social behaviour plan, develop, manage and maintain a 600 square foot allotment site in the Whitemountain area of Lisburn.

It also gives young people a chance to take part in a range of courses, help improve their confidence, education and job opportunities. Those involved will also use their skills to carry out gardening tasks free of charge for older and vulnerable members of the community, and the fresh produce they grow will given to people in the local area.

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Adam Foster, now 21, explains how the YMCA Lisburn has helped him transform his life.

At just 13 years of age Adam found himself in trouble with the police. He soon got bored of school and was hooked on drink and drugs.

“I didn’t listen to my parents or anyone, I left school and got a job at 15,” said Adam. “I was earning a wage and spending it on drink and drugs.

“I was young and I was stupid at the time and I did silly things, but the reason I did them was that there was nothing for me to do.”

He joined the Lisburn YMCA who encouraged him to take courses that interested him.

“So I went there instead of standing on street corners drinking,” said Adam. “Everything I did there really benefited me. It has turned me around.”

Kevin Hughes, Youth Services Co-ordinator with Lisburn YMCA, explained how the organisation, though based in Lisburn, also helps young people in Belfast, Craigavon, Castlereagh, Down and Banbridge.

“Some of these young people will have been in custody,” he said. “Many will have committed offences like theft and assault or car crime. A lot will have dropped out of school.

“Generally, these young people have not worked well in a formal classroom where they have to sit there and follow certain rules and ways of behaviour.

“At the allotment they will be working on something for a year, growing a seed and learning that if you look after it then it produces something. We are getting them to commit to their futures and learn skills that could lead to job opportunities.

“This project will give them skills that they can transfer into other areas of employment, and will also be therapeutic for them.

“It will build their confidence and self respect and their relationship, decision making and leadership skills. And it will also show other people in the area that young people can do something positive and make a difference in their communities.”

To find out more about the Reaching Out programmes visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk