LIMERICK YOUTH SERVICE NEWS: Youth unemployment and support for an integrated Europe were two of the outcomes from LiberaMente, an EU Youth Seminar held in Bolzano, northern Italy recently, in which sixteen young people from Limerick Youth Service participated. Loosely translated as free minds, LiberaMente was a five day seminar saw, which 70 young people from Ireland and Italy discuss this year’s EU Parliamentary Elections and the importance of young people engaging with the political system, be it local, national or European. Through a series of workshops and lectures, the diverse mix of young people discussed the relationship between young people and the EU Parliament, issues of concern to today’s youth, such as employment opportunities and even put the EU on trial! LiberaMente was the partly the brainchild of Daniel Bennelli, an Italian youth worker who wanted get more young people interested in political and civic life. ‘With this year’s EU parliamentary elections, we decided to focus on the European Parliament and its place in the lives of young Europeans,’ said Mr. Bennelli. The outcome was quite interesting, with the majority of participants stating that lack of employment opportunities was their number one concern. ‘This is not surprising, given the youth unemployment rates in Italy and Ireland,’ stated Mr. Bennilli (the current unemployment rate for under 30s is 29% in Ireland and 40% in Italy).
Rowan Pierce (20) a participant at the seminar, said that the lack of suitable employment opportunities is a ‘cause of concern’ for her peers and herself. ‘The government doesn’t really prioritise young people enough and they’re one of the groups that end up being side-lined,’ stated Ms. Pierce, a student at Limerick College of Further Education, Limerick. Ms. Pierce also stressed the importance of young people engaging in political debate and registering to vote. ‘People fought for democracy and women fought for the right to vote, so I think it’s really important (to vote),’ added Ms. Pierce, a native of Killaloe, Co. Clare. Ms. Rowan’s views were echoed by Markus Warasin, a civil servant with the EU Parliament in Brussels, who was a guest lecture at LiberaMente. ‘Europe is not Brussels, big buildings and ‘eurocrats.’ Europe is when you see young people from different nationalities working together. What unites them, is that they are Europeans,’ said Mr. Warasin.
Mr. Warasin gave a first-hand account of the workings of the EU Parliament and chaired a debate on that put the ‘EU on Trial.’ Mr. Warasin welcomed the outcome of the ‘EU on Trial’, in which most participants favoured the EU project. However, he questioned the impact that those who do not vote can have. ‘It is the people who do not vote that often have an effect on elections,’ stressed Mr. Warasin. In relation to getting more young people engaged in the democratic system, participant Luke Hogg argued that there ‘should be more information campaigns and forums like LiberaMente.’ ‘The problem is that some people don’t know the impact the EU has on their lives,’ said Mr. Hogg, adding ‘they don’t know who they’re local MEP is or what the Commission or Council is.’ ‘We need greater awareness campaigns that highlight the impact that decisions made in Brussels have on our lives,’ said Mr. Hogg, a native Clonlara and student at the University of Limerick. Stacey Lyons, Youth Democracy Officer, Limerick Youth Service, congratulated the group who represented Limerick Youth Service. ‘They participated and engaged with every aspect of LiberaMente and were a credit to themselves, their families and Limerick Youth Service,’ said Ms. Lyons, who hails from Ballynanty, Limerick. ‘Seminars like LiberaMente are excellent opportunities for young people from across Europe to spend time with one another and realise they share common goals and expectations,’ continued Ms. Lyons. LiberaMente also provided a unique opportunity for young people to experience the unique culture of Bolzano, a city based in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy that was once part of Austria. ‘With a mixture of Italian and Austrian cuisine, we were spoiled for choice,’ added Ms. Lyons, who is also a member of Limerick Youth Service’s YELL Group-Youth Empowerment Looks @ Limerick. Limerick Youth Service was joined at LiberaMente by young people from Ballyfermot Youth Service, as well as youth groups from the Italian cities of Tortona and hosts Bolzano. Limerick Youth Service would like to thank the above youth groups, guest speakers, Leargas, the EU’s Youth In Action Programme and the young people, for making LiberaMente such as unique experience. Now in our fortieth year, Limerick Youth Service remains committed to supporting and encouraging young people to be active participants in shaping their futures.
Limerick Youth Service will hold its annual Variety Show at LIT’s Millennium Theatre on Friday, January 24 from 7.30pm to 10.30pm. The Variety Show will see young people participate in five categories: Dance, Song, Band, Music and Performance, with the winners representing Limerick Youth Service at Youth Work Ireland’s National Finals in June.
The evening will also see young people and volunteers add a touch of Hollywood to the evening, as they strut their stuff in an ‘At The Movies’ themed Fashion Show. Richard Lynch, ilovelimerick and Aofie McLoughlin, former contestant from the Voice of Ireland, will be two of the judges on the evening with further special guests due to drop in. If you would like to know about the Variety Show, please contact Joe Walsh, Limerick Youth Service at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 083 371 8793.
DOCHAS ANNUAL CHURCH GATE COLLECTION: The annual Church Gate Collection for Dóchas (Hope for people with Autism), takes place this weekend January 18 and 19 at all churches. We would very much appreciate your support
MONEY ADVICE: There are money advice and budgeting services available on the second Tuesday of every month in the Moyross Action Centre from 11am to 1pm. Do you need help with debts, negotiating with creditors or budgeting your income? This is a confidential and free service. For an appointment, please telephone 061 403 109.
WORLD MIGRANT SUNDAY: Sunday, January 19 marks World Migrant Sunday, a day when the Church invites us to reflect on the millions of people who leave their homeland, some by choice, some by force, and some out of sheer desperation, to seek out safety, opportunity, and the dream of a new beginning. Our history as a country is steeped in stories of migration. And sadly, recent years have seen the return of the heartbreak of forced migration, with thousands of Irish people travelling abroad each month to seek out new opportunities. Equally, the last twenty years or so have seen our community become home to many migrants from all over the world, who have come to make their life among us, and who have brought a rich new diversity to our parish – a diversity that is to be embraced and celebrated. Sadly, our newspapers all too frequently carry stories where the dream of a new beginning has ended in tragedy. Last October over 130 African migrants – men, women and children – drowned off the coast of Italy and that tragedy is relived in different forms each day all over the world.
It is worth remembering that the story of Christmas ends with Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus fleeing their homeland, fleeing for their very lives, seeking refuge in Egypt. It’s a sobering thought to think that the God whose birth we have celebrated with such joy at Christmas, began His life as a refugee. In his message for World Migrant Sunday, Pope Francis, who has made defence of the poor a cornerstone of his papacy, writes: “Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost and that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalisation, towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.” He calls on all of us to work to eliminate prejudices and presuppositions in our attitude towards migration, and prays that all migrants will encounter an outstretched hand and the warmth of friendship and welcome in their journey. All of us have a part to play, if that prayer is to be realised.