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West End Youth Centre continues online services following year-long closure

In March 2020, the West End Youth Centre moved services online for young people to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.

The West End Youth Centre is a community organisation based in Ballinacurra Weston; one of four regeneration areas in county Limerick.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the physical centre has been closed and replaced by online activites for young people in the Weston area.

Youth Centre volunteer Sean Fitzgerald said: “We run our groups remotely. We do quizzes, games, and art classes. Community engagement is still high while being online.”

They opened their doors in August 2010 and have been operating in the community eversince.

The service offered a range of different services such as CV skills for young people, dance groups for the elderly, and baby sensory groups, while art classes, and baking were popular activities with young people.

Their drop-in services were important for secondary school students who attended for homework club and extra-curricular activities.

Volunteer Evan O’Grady said: “We haven’t seen them in person at the centre for six months and young people are asking when we are opening back up. They have a massive appreciation for it, now more than they ever did. We’re looking forward to getting back and working with them.”

The centre collaborates with Paul Partnershipto promote a healthy eating programme with young people.

Paul Partnership is an organization made up of representatives from communities, state agencies, social partners, voluntary groups and elected representatives that promotes social inclusion and works with communities that have benefited from economic and social development in Limerick.

Evan said: “We have a specific target group that we provide food for. We go on Zoom and go step by step on healthy eating programmes.”

“We are also linked with ETB who provide tutors, we do art classes and instrument making.”

Education Training Board (ETB) are statutory authorities which have responsibility for education, training and youth work.

When allowed to return, groups will be reduced to comply with Covid-19 guidelines.

Evan said: “Our groups would have been groups of 12 young people but now they’re broken into three different groups.

“Time is also restricted; the usual two-hour slot is reduced to one hour. It’s all about keeping everyone safe while working to the best of our abilities.”

Although the youth centre is operating online, it offers care to at-risk young people when required. Two youth officers are assigned to every young person.

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