Mary's Blog

This month’s blog is a roundup of the fantastic year we’ve had in MACS, with a focus on our young people’s many achievements.

Below is just a sample of the many good things that have been happening and is such strong evidence of how our young people are so strong and resilient, and how hard MACS staff work to be consistent and loving in their approach.

Here is a story from Amy in Wellbeing which shows the importance of linking our young people into a community and tightening the bonds of friendship and sense of belonging.

Last year, three young people at Wellbeing attended the annual Christmas party for the very first time with the aim to make new friends and build confidence.  A year on, they are celebrating their achievements together and are a friendship group beaming with confidence and are welcoming to newcomers who join the group activities.

Homeless Tournament 2017Wellbeing also supported young people and staff to enter into the annual football tournament hosted by Street Soccer NI for Homeless Awareness Week.  Our team did amazingly and reached the final only to be narrowly beaten by 1-0 by worthy winners NI Housing Executive.


In Belfast Floating Support five young people completed a Money 4 Life programme which was fantastically led by Amit, who is one of our young volunteer leaders.

A young person living in a rural area and quite socially isolated was too nervous to get to college by bus.  Sharron his worker, worked with him consistently to build confidence through exposure work so that eventually he was able to travel to college on his own.  He said:

If it wasn’t for MACS I would have run off the bus – I am feeling very proud of my achievement. 

Chloe was 16 with a young baby when referred to Lisburn floating Support.  With the help from MACS staff she was able to completely furnish her new flat.  She always wanted to travel and with her worker she wall papered her living room with a famous city themed print, so it would remind her to stay focused on her dream to travel one day.  Meanwhile, Chloe has applied to become a young leader with MACS and has completed OCN level 1 in Youth Work. She has said on several occasions that the wallpaper inspires her to never give up on her dreams.

Stacy sent me this lovely news about Callum in Downpatrick Housing:

Callum has a real interest in music (I love music – it makes my life so much better!) and has started a course in OCN level 2 in music.  He plays guitar in a band and has been doing gigs in Armagh and Dundalk and will hopefully be playing for us live at the next big MACS event.

In Belfast Housing, Declan, Erin, Sophia and Lisa all secured some form of employment recently.  Prudence completed her modelling course.  Jack is thriving in his music and his guitar can be heard in a very good way all over the building. Caitlin has been exemplary in showing huge reserves of resilience in facing some challenging circumstances and Cameron has been steadfast in keeping all his appointments and generally making considerable efforts to engage.

Volunteers are now branching out across MACS services and so far Darren and Joyce have been regulars helping out with Sunday dinners and Monday house meetings in Uni – street.  Alison and Davy are volunteering in Belfast Floating Support helping out putting Christmas hampers together and hopefully delivering to young people over the next few days.

Finally, can I say a big thank you to Led by You who have completed what seems like thousands of hours of volunteering to make MACS truly led by young people, our fabulous MACS choir who have been spreading Christmas cheer throughout the city with their fine carol singing and I have been asked by the Board of Directors to extend a heartfelt thanks to our super staff and volunteers and a Happy Christmas!


And finally – point to ponder – I found this little piece in a magazine about listening and thought it was very pertinent both in terms of how we avoid conversations and how badly at times we listen (me a culpa).

Stop avoiding conversations you think may lead to an argument and instead learn to have the discussion without arguing. You do that by choosing to learn from the conversation instead of teach. Don’t try to educate the other person, prove them wrong or change their mind. Instead make it your goal to learn more about their perspective and their thought processes. This is an excellent way to increase your own empathy and stimulate your mind with new ideas. Most of the time, we don’t hear everything a person says. Often we hear just the first few words someone speaks and then start crafting our response. In order to listen effectively, you have to allow thoughts to enter your head and then let them flow right back out so you can return to listening. That’s a discipline and an exercise in mindfulness. Talking teaches you nothing, and so it’s no surprise when we learn nothing about each other and find it hard to empathise with those who disagree. We’ve stopped listening and therefore have stopped learning.
Mary Ryan