Mary's Blog

In the spirit of true bah humbug, I am not going to do a Christmas blog.  As you may know, I loathe and love Christmas in equal measure. However, the balance has shifted over to loathe – no I cannot accept Christmas starting in October.

I definitely have run out of steam and Christmas goodwill by now! All around me are people getting stressed about buying! And then I see so much loneliness that is ever so much heightened at Christmas. I am sure you have all seen the advert that has gone viral on YouTube. Phil Beastall made the short film for £50 and unlike the demeaning and cloying John Lewis which let’s face it is about getting people to spend more money (usually those who have very little). This Ad focuses on the gift of love – no money exchanges hands – no pressure to find the perfect gift as the real gift is love.

Community Foundation presentation

Community Foundation For Northern Ireland

Enough of me on my soapbox – let’s talk about how fantastic our young people are. In Led by You our young people undertook some fantastic promotional work on behalf of the organisation. I had the opportunity to attend one of the meetings where Caoimhe T, Caoimhe W, Jonny and Robyn from Led by You presented to the Community Foundation Board of Directors about how participation is so important to them and how MACS really do listen and take on the views of young people, particularly in relation to changing service provision. I was so proud of them, they were articulate, wise, engaging, funny and insightful – with this calibre of young person, so go-getting and confident – workers in other organisations watch out for your jobs!

BBC Children in Need promotional video

Bbc Children In Need

Also in Led by You Cillian, Robyn, Jonny,  Caoimhe T and Caoimhe W helped out with a BBC Children in Need promotional video – feedback from Trevor said “they embodied passion, decorum and utmost professionalism”.

Connection with Queens University Belfast

Qub Kathy and Carrie in partnership with workers Charlie and Trevor ran a workshop to first-year social work students in Queens on values and young people’s participation and the Led by You gang again got highly praised from Queens University. We have made a fantastic connection with Queens University students in the form of Enactus. Enactus is the student society for social change. Led by Matthew, they are exploring with us ways in which they can support us through our activities in Muddy Paws, floating support and housing in the New Year.

Volunteering at Radius Housing

Radius Housing Again in Lisburn our young people were ready to volunteer with Radius Housing – after the huge success in the summer on the gardening project, building on this a group of young people volunteered over the Halloween period with Radius tenants who experience dementia – to quote from Linda T “Our young people were caring and compassionate and are already talking about how they can help out at Radius Christmas party coming up.”

Downpatrick improvements

In Downpatrick as a result of involvement in the social pedagogy training, staff and young people are purposefully looking at how they can make the office space more user-friendly.  Work is ongoing currently to transform some parts of the office so that it feels less off-putting and more welcoming to all.

Volunteers in MACS are our shining lights!

We could not do without you, and I am truly humbled and grateful to the generosity of others who gladly give up of their free time to give to others.  This month Amy asked me to give special praise to Chris Dean (she pointed out that pronounced out loud can be confused with Christine!!) This is what Amy said about Chris:

He is a fantastic addition to the volunteer team – at a recent group event with young people, the young people were coming up to me to ask could they be mentored by Chris – he has a natural ability to put people at their ease, he is reliable and totally committed and groups would just not be the same without him.

Belfast Sleep Out

Macs Belfast Sleep Out 2018 23 As you know the first ever End Youth Homelessness Sleep Out took place in Belfast on 15 November. We had a spectacular turn out of people from MACS staff to the general public with the final total of those who slept out on that very cold night to 107!  Well done to Roz and her team Jules, Roisin and Matt who did a sterling job in relation to making the event such a resounding success.  I heard that Roz, who spent the night on a hard floor, was up at the crack of dawn making bacon baps for the happy but weary sleep outers! Many people commented on how hard it was to sleep and how the thought of having to do it all over again the next night was – to say the least – soul destroying and physically too demanding.  Also a big thank you also to Carla our PR extraordinaire who worked her socks off to get the event so well publicised and had celebrities sleeping out who had a genuine interest in the plight of youth homelessness.

Muddy Paws gets premises

Cfni Crowdfunding Event 4 Muddy Paws our pilot Social enterprise is due to open its doors in January 2019.  We have finally secured a lovely space to work from just off the Cregagh Rd roundabout. Trevor and Carrie, one of our young people from Led by You made a pitch for finance recently to at an NI Giving event organized through Community Foundation they did a stellar job and were fantastically able to fundraise £4000. Carrie especially did an outstanding presentation in talking about the value of being in Led by You and her involvement with Muddy Paws, and how it will make a real difference to combating isolation and loneliness.

Therapeutic Community for Children

A team of Bryson House staff volunteered with us stripping wallpaper to get our new house ready

And we are nearly there with our therapeutic community for children. All the team are now in place and will start their induction for the month of December. Big welcome to our new starts Carole, Nicky, Aaron, Catherine, Ceire, Eadaoin, Sarah and Lindsay. Their training will focus specifically on the Just Right State therapeutic approach, self-reflection and how to function as a self-managing team.

We are in the midst of getting our lovely home ready and the plan is to welcome our first child in January. This has been a tremendous journey for all of us involved so far and we have I am sure much to learn in the future. I truly believe that we can do something that is groundbreaking and essential and that as an organisation we can positively impact and try to change in some small way the very poor outcomes for children who have gone through care.

Point to ponder: News Night did a piece on young people leaving care recently. They followed four young people from the point of leaving care over a 10 year period. What struck me was a comment made by one of the young people, when asked, “What was the worst thing about going into care?” he replied “Being taken away from the whole of your family.” We know that whole families are not bad and our challenge is to connect young people to their own cultural identity and to their extended family. Also a foster parent who had fostered for over 30 years said “If a child is taken away from their family, then the state should give them a life time commitment – not just up to 18 years of age – no normal family does that, my own kids and the kids I have fostered come back to me all the time when they have needed extra support.”  Now that would be true corporate parenting!

Thank You I just want to say a huge, thank you to Mairead O’Flaherty (Sinéad’s Mum), who make the most beautiful handmade Christmas cards for MACS – we really appreciate them!

As its coming to the end of the year can I thank all our great staff for their commitment and loyalty to the children and young people they work with and to a very strong and supportive Board of Directors led by Billy.  And last but really first our children and young people – who are always inspirational! ?

Mary Ryan