Exploring care identity at our recent 5 Nations 1 Voice residential, 11 October 2016

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 13:10

Sintija Juanslaviete concludes in this blog 'Together we can and will help change the lives of our young people in care.'

The 5 Nations, 1 Voice residential for 2016 was held from 23 September at Greenhill YMCA in Newcastle Co. Down and ran for two days.

Young people from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland came together with members of staff as one big nation to talk about care identity. We missed out on having young people from England this time but you can be sure we'll tell them all about it.

The purpose of the residential was to bring together young people from all over the UK and Ireland to explore what care identity means and how it impacts on them. There were mixed feelings among the young people who travelled from near and far as new and old faces came together.  Some were excited about seeing old friends and discussing the problems and challenges young people in care face. Others were nervous because they had never been on a residential before and didn't know what to expect. The new comers soon settled down as everyone came together to make them feel relaxed and part of the group.

The mood from everyone seemed to be the same - they were excited about getting together with other nations to see how the care system is for them and what their country does for young people in the care system. A lot of young people said they were looking forward to taking what they heard back to their own country so they can challenge their Government to help improve things for young people in care. Young people from every nation said being part of the residential helped to boost their confidence because everyone had been through the care system and knew exactly what they are going through.

Our first workshop on Friday evening was an art challenge that got us all thinking about creating one big art piece that reflects care identity. The second day’s workshops were group exercises to get young people thinking and talking about their care identity and how their care identity works for them. Everyone seemed to enjoy these sessions as they worked together to find out how care identity differs from nation to nation and what they can do to make things better.

Paul and Debs - the organisers of the workshops - had their own opinion about how it went. Paul Smyth said "It is extremely important for young people of all nations to get together like this, to share experiences of the care system. Anyone meeting 5 Nations, 1 Voice would be able to take away a better understanding of young people in care."

When I asked him what he thinks of the views of young people in care his answer was "Strong and brazen! These young people face a hard challenge but it is apparent from this group that they take on this challenge well and come out the other end much stronger people".

Jo works for VOYPIC and told me this "The residential took a lot of planning over many meetings. Everything had to be thought through - from making sure there was enough room for everybody to booking transport to and from the airports. Even the food had to be planned out but it all came together in the end and was a huge success.

This was VOYPIC's first time holding a 5 Nations, 1 Voice residential and we had a lot of fun doing it. We like to get involved in the workshops just as much as the young people."

Eithne works for VOYPIC and she added "It has been such a fun weekend! I enjoyed my first ever time on a zipline and getting involved in the activities with so many great young people. I am very impressed by the young people who are part of 5 Nations, 1 Voice and their willingness to get involved and share their stories. We really see the benefits an event like this brings to young people we support".

On the last day of the residential the young people were asked to choose one word to describe how they felt about the residential and the weekend's work. Most young people were positive and we heard words such as "ENTERTAINING" "OUTSTANDING" and "BRILLIANT". Some young people were thinking to the future and said "OPTIMISTIC".

Darren Smith is actively involved with VOYPIC and described his weekend like this "Something so small can become something big and powerful - a force for good is an incredible thing".

I think this is a powerful way, not only to describe the 5 Nations, 1 Voice residential but to describe how we can change our lives for the better. It doesn't matter how big or small your contribution, it's all part of a bigger movement of change.

Together we can and will help change the lives of our young people in care.