Mary's Blog

This month again I have received some great stories about how well young people are doing in MACS.

Conaire in Belfast Housing told me about Sebastjan, who joined a transformational self-portrait group being run in Uni street. Sebastjan journeyed from being sceptical, to totally engaged in the process. He is now taking enormous pride in his work and is promoting the art group to other young people in Uni Street.

In Downpatrick, Sarah told me two wonderful anecdotes of young people thriving, not just surviving.

“I have been just thinking about all I have done over the past six months and its totally crazy” – Aimee

Aimee came to MACS very shy, and found it really difficult to be in groups of people. Well, now she is now attending Tech to complete Maths and English. She is also doing a six-week life skills programme with MACS. She went horse riding with Sarah for the very first time recently, and Sarah described it as more of a challenge for her then Aimee!

Terri- Leanne has done a complete 360-degree turnaround with her life.”

Terri-Leanne, a young person supported in Downpatrick in the past, met up with Sarah. She is now living independently with her partner and baby boy. She is driving and paying off her student loan and is very much focused on creating a good life for her son.

Also in Downpatrick, Charlene told me about Colleen who is completing level 2 work based diploma in Agriculture at Greenmount College. She is currently doing a placement on a farm which has been a lifelong dream for her.

It has very much been a month of MACS promoting its work. In Newry housing we saw the launch of the back yard project. Last year we were very lucky to get monies from DHSS through Deidre Coyle at the Health and Social Care Board to develop Social Pedagogy by staff and young people working together to develop what was a derelict unloved back yard space. Well no more – through lots of hard work and determination they have transformed the space into a perfect haven. There are lights, murals, handmade chairs, potted plants and a wonderful gazebo complete with decking heating and seating. The launch was a real credit to Claire and her team they put on treats galore from homemade tray bakes to take away Chinese all very moreish.

Dairine, one of our young people from Newry, spoke at the launch. I can honestly say I have never heard a young person speak with such sincerity and warmth for all the support she has received from MACS Newry.

Also at the Newry backyard hooley, Led by You launched MACS young people’s strategy.


Again our young people Cailain and Deirbhile spoke like seasoned public speakers. Neither had a script but both spoke with real insight and inspiration about how important it is that young people’s views lie at the heart of the organisation. I swear not only are our young people outstripping us on the blog front (see Cailains blog its brilliant!) but they are now trumping staff on the public speaking front!

There was much giddiness in the Wellbeing Service when they hosted BBC Children In Need get together and star guest was Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol. Sarah (Wellbeing Manager) had had a tough week already; what with interviewing for her service for 3 days, and filling in for Belfast Housing only to have an unannounced visit from RQIA arrive. I think the BBC visit with Gary Lightbody nearly sent her over the edge, but she held it together with her great sense of humour and incredible work ethic. The visit went really well and our young people were chuffed to meet Gary who showed great interest in our work.

Gary tweeted about his visit as soon as he left the building!

This month we have lots of comings and goings in relation to staff. Big congratulations to Scott who got the brand new post of Volunteer Co-ordinator for the Wellbeing Service. Scott’s role will very definitely be focused on developing opportunities for volunteers throughout the organisation, and also generally increasing our pool of volunteers particularly in the area of attracting more men and older volunteers. Also well done to Roseanne and Amy, who will be taking up the two new worker posts in Wellbeing Service, they will be working alongside Scott on volunteering. A big welcome to Sinead and Laura in Belfast Floating Support. We say a fond farewell to Madeline who worked with us over the last three years in relation to fundraising and PR. Madeline is kindly going to stay on as a volunteer with the MACS choir – this is her baby and it is going from strength to strength.

The Lord Mayor came for a visit to Uni Street on 24th October. This was an informal visit and staff and young people were really welcoming and I think he was genuinely impressed about all the work going on there. Well done to Yvonne who met the Lord Mayor at the Suicide Prevention Dawn Walk and encouraged him to come visit!

And lastly, I attended a workshop at NICVA about Social Innovation. This workshop described tools that organisations can use to get an idea off the ground no matter how far-fetched it initially seems. It was a very experiential workshop and a programme is being developed later on in the year to help lucky organisations who get on it to develop an idea and bring it into reality.

Get your thinking caps on and maybe you have an idea you would like to bring to fruition. The closing date for applications is mid-December.