Next up on our series of finding out more from our members who work in charities around the world is Louise, shedding some light on the work of Youth for Christ.
Louise has worked with Youth for Christ for approximately 3 years and is based at the YfC centre in Ballysillan North Belfast, fondly known locally as “the Blue Houses”.
The centre is a beacon of light for the young people of the area. It has been in operation for 26 years, running a variety of programmes which include community relations work, a drop-in for children, teenagers & young adults, one-to-one mentoring and schools work. The area represents all of the problems of a typical inner-city environment in Northern Ireland – broken homes, single parents, strong paramilitary influence, high unemployment rates, high incidence of drug-and-alcohol abuse, poor achievement at school, low-grade housing, children and young people with high need for attention, low self-esteem and lower expectations.
Their mission is to serve the local community by helping young people reach their potential through faith, hope and love. They seek to respond to the needs of young people and address the issues that they face and help them develop personally, socially and spiritually through relational youth work.
So Louise, when did you first know you wanted to do your current role:
Prior to the Bluehouses, I was a teacher and part time youth worker. It was never in myplan to come and work in Ballysillan. I was comfortable and content where I was but God had a different plan.
Give us a highlight from your time in current role:
There are so many highlights but Summer Camp 2019 will be one I will always remember. There was a real sense of family, community and belonging at camp were young people felt included, loved and worthy. One of our girls won the Best Camper Award, no-one would have called that on day one! From demanding to go home in the first hour, her attitude and meltdowns, to a young woman with a greater level of empathy, showing peer leadership and buckets of enthusiasm. She shared that it was the best residential she had ever been on. For most of our young people it was their first experience of more formal worship, prayer and hearing someone share. They had the opportunity to experience, explore and process what they had heard. We were thrilled and thankful that five young people made a commitment and we journey with them through a weekly bible study. One girl shared “…I loved summer camp because I got to meet new people and make new friends, but most importantly because I became a Christian!”
When have you witnessed a real impact that your work has had in someone else’s life:
Each day is totally different and brings with it new challenges. My heart is to bring change and transformation to the lives of young people and for them to experience Jesus. Everyday I get to witness the work I do impacting someone’s life. One of the biggest things that has stuck with me is journeying with a girl who didn’t want to live anymore and couldn’t find a reason to keep on going. I couldn’t wave a magic wand and make it all better but I was available and present, I listened, encouraged her, spoke truths over her life and prayed with her. This was enough to instil a sense of hope for tomorrow and restore a perspective of purpose in her life. This incredible young woman is now a young leader, volunteering her time to give back, invest in others and make a difference.
What is it that gives you the drive to keep doing what you do:
There is simply one thing that keeps me going and motivates me – Jesus! I am reminded that I am to have a kingdom perspective. To see our young people through a different lens, like God does. Looking beyond the surface layer, superficial stuff and seeing the gifts, potential and abilities God has given them.
Is there anything you would like to say to your supporting congregation at Trinity:
I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has prayed, contributed financially, donated items for the car boot sale or simply encouraged me in my work. I couldn’t do what I do without the support. Thank You for being part of the wider Bluehouses family!
What are the biggest challenges facing your organisation just now:
The biggest challenge impacting my work and the organisation as a whole is the financial and capacity constraints. We have big dreams and visions of being in more schools, opening more nights, extending the demographic we work with. There is so much need in the community of Ballysillan but we currently can’t meet the demand. We would love to employ a new male youth worker to target the disengaged young men in the community and help break the cycle of underachievement in school and the culture of drugs and risky behaviours.
Follow the work of the Bluehouses online: