Front entrance of the YMCA Dublin building. Showing the new procedures of entering the building due to COVID-19.

Alternative Suspension (AS) launches this month at YMCA Dublin, an innovative programme for an Irish context.

AS provides an essential support to students who have been temporarily suspended from school and or are at risk of suspension. It is evident a programme like Alternative Suspension is necessary for students who have become disengaged or suspended from school, the effect of which has been compounded by covid-19.

Students who have been suspended, or at risk of suspension, will come to the YMCA rather than spend their time at home excluded from school. With us, they will complete schoolwork, take part in workshops, engage in group mentoring, visits, and coaching to build self esteem and confidence. Upon return to school after 3-5 days, the YMCA will join the reintegration meeting and advocate constructively for the young person to the school and the parents.

Our AS Coordinator, Susie Keane, says “Alternative Suspension is needed because it offers students an opportunity to turn their time away from school into a positive experience. This time away from school can help students to reflect on their actions, have the support of a youth worker and the time to catch up on their coursework so they are not behind the school community.”

The programme was originally developed by YMCA Canada in 1999 and now runs at 40 YMCA sites, in partnership with 300 schools, helping over 3,000 young people every year. The programme has been researched by the Canadian government and is shown to have strong positive outcomes, which we expect to be evident in our Dublin setting.

YMCA Dublin AS has partnered with 4 inner-city DEIS Schools, and we expect to host 80 students in our first year, growing to 130 by year 3.

Youthspaces have continued to innovate and provide safe and engaging universal and targeted youth services to young people throughout the pandemic. A full hybrid timetable is in effect from this month in person and online, which allows connection with a broad cohort of young people.

Looking forward to the autumn and the new school year, youthspaces will get back into a regular service routine and look towards reengaging with young people and their families who have struggled during covid restrictions and continue to provide much needed services to the local community.

We have launched an Outreach service with youthworkers on the streets of the local Dublin 2 & 8 community. They chat and check-in with young people, play sports, hand out stationary packs, and act out a positive and encouraging presence in the local area. This service is having an impact by reengaging young people who have become disengaged from their community during the pandemic.

With support from Healthy Ireland, YMCA Dublin designed and implemented a targeted programme over a series to address the identified needs of the young people accessing our services. A person-centred curriculum covered mental and physical wellbeing, and crisis management. Eligible for these sessions were young people who displayed risk factors, with the outcome of them developing new interests, supports, and the ability to understand and communicate their own feelings and well-being.

PlusOne is a community-based mentoring programme for at-risk or vulnerable young people who are experiencing challenges in life. The programme leverages the mentoring relationship with an adult role-model to help the young person expand their positive peer network, increase self-confidence, and build autonomy. Built on principles of long term mentoring as an early intervention it uses a youth work approach to establish a positive relationship and work towards constructive outcomes.

All through the pandemic PlusOne was able to run successfully online, and even established new mentorship pairings online-only, which was a great success and met a real need. Now, with the lifting of some restrictions, PlusOne is able to resume some in-person mentoring on location at the Aungier St. Hub.

Childcare is looking forward to the beginning of a new term this September. We’re welcoming new children and families to our service and we can’t wait to see them become a part of the YMCA Community. Over the summer we said goodbye to some of our pre-school and Kidsworld children who have made the leap to ‘big school’. It’s an exciting time for them and their families, and we wish them all the very best of luck on this new adventure.

Chaplaincy. In March of this year, after 6 months of training, two chaplains were appointed to YMCA Dublin. They are part of a wider adoption of chaplains in YMCA Ireland, under a National Coordinating Chaplain based in Dublin, with five chaplains in centres all across Ireland. Chaplains are trained volunteers who are available for the pastoral care, holistic well-being, and prayer of YMCA staff, service users, and communities. Given restrictions, their work has been limited to outdoor youth work volunteering, remote support, and online meetings at present, and they are looking forward to joining in the daily in-person operations of the organisation in the near future.

Moving Forward
We are excited to be able to launch and maintain impactful programmes that benefit the Dublin communities we call home in these uncertain times. If you are interested to hear more about these specific programmes, or other areas of impact, do not hesitate to get in touch.
Until we see you in person again, keep safe, stay well, & stay connected,
YMCA Dublin

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