Well we are off!!! With Trevor in command, and me supporting, definitely second in command, we interviewed for the Shadow Board and Young Leaders volunteering in MACS.

The calibre of the young people was outstanding and notwithstanding nerves (I know myself and Trevor are a formidable pair!) the knowledge and passion from our young people was so heartening. So we have our full complement for the Shadow Board, and the Young Leaders will come on stream later as there needs to be some work completed in terms of training & shaping the work etc.

Just a point for you guys to remember lest there be any confusion – both the Shadow Board and the Young Leaders are Volunteer roles – not paid. The first meeting of our newly formed Shadow Board is on Thursday 5 May, so guys, your continued energy and enthusiasm for encouraging your young people to attend and keep on attending is vital if the Board is to have a real impact on services delivered at MACS. (Look out for our monthly blog/video undertaken by our young people)

Congratulations to Trevor whose post in Participation has been extended very kindly by the BoD for another year. I have been working closely with Trevor over the last few weeks, and I must comment on his drive and excitement in wanting to get Participation really on the map at MACS. He has a lovely approach towards our young people, which is encouraging and empathic, and never patronising or condescending and he will teach me loads about patience!

Yvonne in Uni street also waxed lyrical about one of her relatively new workers Sorcha. In her words, Sorcha has grown immensely in her role and is compassionate and caring towards her Young People. Sorcha is also a very resilient worker who has a high tolerance for difficult behaviours.

While we’re speaking of dedicated and committed workers, sadly we say a farewell to Robyn in Uni St, she has been a real rock throughout many a stormy period and has been a constant support for our Young People, who I’m told really like her. Yvonne and Suzanne always cite her great sense of humour and energy. In Uni St also, I would like to welcome Mark (Mailey) and Kieran to their Support Worker roles and to Mark (McQuillan) from Downpatrick Housing who was recently appointed to the new Team leader position. I think that Uni St is shaping up to be a very dynamic team. And I also hear that Kieran and Young People Jodie and Daniel were out planting flowers in the front of Uni St until the wee small hours – never heard the like of it in all my time at MACS – so really well done!!

In Wellbeing, as you may know, we are through to 2nd round of a Big Lotto application. Suzanne had a further interview with one of their officers recently – let’s hope that’s a good sign! The service also gave a very professional and informative presentation to the BoD and I think that their young person Sophie stole the show with her beautiful account of what MACS means to her!

Much work is underway in Downpatrick Housing in relation to the makeover of the common room – maybe we could get a Board meeting down there sometime? Also, Newry Housing are beavering away with young people in the garden project, which is part of their social pedagogy. I hear that David has really engaged our young people in making outdoor furniture, a superb patio area with decking, and has generally worked his cottons off with young people to make this space delightful.

Lisburn is in the middle of interviews preparing for the launch of our new Supported Housing which hopefully will be opening in June/July 16.

AAA (Access to All Areas) is still moving along nicely – we are now at the stage of setting up thematic groups to look at the issues affecting Young People and then to hopefully make a plan around lobbying. MACS is involved in the thematic groups for homeless and housing, mental health and youth justice.

The Supporting People campaign is still going folks!! Thanks for all your support so far. NIFHA (Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations) are hoping to gather providers together after the local elections in early May, to lobby outside Stormont for a 10% increase in the SP budget – It would be great if we could get as many staff and young people up on the Hill as possible, I will keep you posted on this.

Oh, and can I mention big praise for our intrepid Jules, who is now holding the Finance Fort on her own, as Joanne has gone on to the formidable world of accountancy! Jules is working like a trojan and has increased her hours from part-time to full-time. Roz, who as you know is on maternity, is very kindly giving Jules great support and is also coming in to oversee the annual financial audit in May. This is the kind of staff who are in MACS, people who truly go the extra mile – there is such a will in every part of MACS to make life great for our YP, and this includes Finance and Admin. I was at the Mangers day out a few weeks ago and was truly struck by the energy, joie de vivre, and sheer aliveness of the team – I was so proud to be part of their company.

Can I take this opportunity to say a big big BIG congratulations to Eva, who recently had a baby girl. This has been a long journey for Eva, and she is truly an inspiration to us all in relation to sheer tenacity, single-mindedness, and so much courage. Point to ponder – I was reading Viktor Frankl on being human (I know, nothing like a little bit of light reading!). He developed a therapy called logotherapy – basically its premise is: Life offers meaning by: Completing a task Having somebody to love Attitude to unavoidable suffering.

And finally, a BIG up for MACS supporter Andy McConnell, who successfully ran the Belfast Marathon on May Day for our young people and has raised £215! What a wonderful thing to do for us!