The BOSS project was established in the summer of 2012 is a partnership between three clubs, namely Ballyoran, Oasis and Scotch Street. This programme has brought together over 100 young people from a mixture of Protestant, Catholic and Ethnic Minority backgrounds. Offering a wide variety of activities including sport, art, study visits and residentials young people are constantly challenged to try new things, look at things from a different perspective and visit places they would not normally access. Together a working relationship has developed between all three clubs involved, new friendships have been built between young people from diverse backgrounds and positive changes are being made to the communities where these young people live.
Music is a powerful mechanism by which young people can celebrate individual culture and diversity yet has the potential to bring people together. The United Stars programme meets every Monday and has around 20 members who have been developing their skills in popular music including, singing, songwriting, live performance and creating a band. We also offer recognized qualifications in relevant subjects as part of the personal development of the young people. United Stars is a project, not just for those who sing or play an instrument, but for those who enjoy music, so even if you don’t consider yourself talented, but are keen to learn we would love to have you along.
Urban Arts was developed in conjunction with the Education Authority Inclusion Unit. The group which is primarily made up of young people from Portuguese speaking backgrounds who were involved in creating new Rap Songs conveying an anti racist message and the personal journey of some of the group. The young people went on to perform their songs at various concerts and community events across Craigavon. The group have also created music videos to accompany their songs and completed OCNs in Public Performance.
Oasis delivers its largest ever programme.
Bravery, Honour & Justice were the central themes of this year’s Oasis Summer Scheme which took place at St. John the Baptist Primary School in Portadown. These themes were woven into the fabric of the week’s activities and gave the children an opportunity to explore how they could embed these virtues, in practical ways, into their lives.
Medieval Madness was a 5-day scheme that ran from 24th – 28th July and catered for 340 children aged 5-11 years of age. The scheme was inclusive of children representative of all the primary schools in Portadown and Central Craigavon and included children for 14 different communities (60% drawn from ethnic minority groups and 40% from the indigenous communities). The scheme was also attended by 20 Syrian children who have arrived as refugees in the Craigavon area over the past year.
The scheme was delivered by the staff of Oasis Youth, along with 120 volunteers, the majority of whom were young people from the club. Senior volunteers were mostly parents of the children or adults who wanted to ‘lend a hand’.
In essence, the Summer Scheme had two objectives:
– Firstly, allow children to interact and make new cross-community/cross-cultural friends with others of their same age in a fun environment.
There were lots of activities for the children to get involved in, including: arts & crafts, sports, games, cookery, dance, drumming, archery all led by either qualified and highly motivated staff or increasingly by our volunteer team. The children worked in small, culturally diverse groups and gained experience in collective work designing and using their creative sides to the full. ‘Awesome’, was the most popular word that children used repeatedly to describe the week.
– Secondly, to develop the potential of junior helpers and young volunteers to work in an intercultural environment and develop leadership skills.
The cultural and linguistic knowledge that volunteers brought to the Medieval Madness was inspiring and their participation energized the children to participate in a multiplicity of activities with confidence.
Speaking about her volunteering Anastazja from Poland said, ‘This opportunity has increased my self-confidence, such an amazing place with so many opportunities!
Michael Jonak, another volunteer said, “I have been volunteering with Oasis for 5 years and projects like the summer scheme have given me great satisfaction in helping others while developing my personality and making me the person that I am today.’
Speaking about the input of volunteers, Daniela, one of the parents said, ‘Your volunteers are beyond superb, their positive energy was infectious’.
Midweek, a fleet of 7 buses ferried the entire group of 450 vibrant children and volunteers to Dundonald where they enjoyed 10-pin bowling and had the time of their lives at the Indiana Land indoor soft play area.
The finale of the scheme took place on Friday when the school site was converted into a giant action-packed funfair in which children and volunteers enjoyed water zorbing, bouncing and sliding down giant inflatables all topped of with a barbeque and ice cream
Derek Baker, the Permanent Secretary for Education visited the project and commended the high quality, good relations elements. 12 youth workers from Germany, who were on a good practice visit to Northern Ireland, were also hosted for one day and became embedded within the activities.
The feedback from parents during the week was impressive. One parent summed it up this way, ‘ Wow!! Our first Oasis summer camp experience just happened! Awesome just about starts to cover it. Thanks guys for all your hard work. An amazing team and a monster effort but our kids gave it “a million out of ten”. So we’re well and truly hooked! Can’t wait for the next one!! ‘
Ciara McCourt, one of the volunteer parents reported, ‘It was such fab week all round, I had the best time volunteering, meeting all the kids, sharing the experiences & making a lot of new friends along the way. Such a fantastic summer scheme, my 2 kids loved every minute. Can’t wait until next year guys.’
Andrew McCreery, Youth Coordinator, who managed the scheme with his staff team said,‘Our summer scheme is the highlight of our year of activities and it always gives us so much satisfaction to see the children, from so many different religious, political and cultural backgrounds, work and play together in a positive manner. The input of our volunteers who spent months preparing for Medieval Madness and injected so much enthusiasm into the week are an inspiration to us.
We are indebted to our funders for placing their confidence in our service. We especially thank BBC Children in Need, NI Housing Executive (Community Cohesion), Education Authority, Big Lottery, Southern HSC Trust, Rank Foundation, Network Personnel – we would like to thank The Northern Ireland Executive Social Investment Fund (SIF) Southern Zone ‘Work It’ training and employment programme who helped part fund our event, and finally Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Good Relations Department for their valuable contribution in making Medieval Madness a reality this year.
The Housing Executive’s Gerard Donnelly said: “This was an extremely positive cross-community event which promoted inclusivity and interaction for young people in a safe environment.
This was an opportunity for young people to develop their leadership skills as well as gaining a better understanding of different cultures. The children gained new skills throughout the 5 day scheme, which are now embedded into their lives.
The overall positive outcome from the Medieval Madness will hopefully encourage more young people to get involved, which ultimately will help improve community cohesion between children from different communities.”
Oasis working in partnership on new pilot scheme.
PORTADOWN GETS ACTIVE
Oasis was the community partner in the delivery of a pilot project designed by the charity, ‘Children In NI’ and CYPSP, which was aimed at helping families overcome the difficulties caused by the lack of free school meals during the holidays.
The Portadown Gets Active project was delivered in partnership with Pathways that provided access to physical activity and facilitation of course work. The project was designed to encourage children aged between 8 and 11 to continue taking part in physically energetic pursuits in the summer months. Portadown Gets active’ ran during the month of August at Presentation Primary School.
It is being delivered in partnership with the community and voluntary sector, statutory agencies, schools and local government with additional support from Craigavon based Almac Group.
It also helped children understand the importance of healthy living by providing them with the skills and confidence to cook simple nutritious meals on a budget.
It provides a healthy snack and lunch, but also gives children the opportunity to take part in a range of activities and gain an OCN qualification in Healthy Living. The children also completed a mini medics course. A total of 70 children took part in the project. 20 teenagers from Oasis became peer mentors during the project obtaining OCNs for their efforts and developed their volunteering skill base.
Pauline Leeson, Chief Executive of Children in Northern Ireland said: “For some families, particularly those who receive free school meals, the school holidays can be a struggle.
“It’s not just the increase in food cost but the pressures associated with keeping children active.
Alan Armstrong, CEO of Almac Group, said the opportunities created by the programme were to be greatly welcomed.
“It is great to see us all pull together to ensure these children receive the education and support they need to guarantee they have the skillset and ability to prepare decent, nutritious meals now and into the future,” he said.
“We are proud to be supporting this initiative to help unlock the potential of all children and young people no matter where they grow up.”
Andrew McCreery from Oasis said We are passionate about children and young people achieving their potential and recognise that being healthy is of prime importance in achieving this. Portadown Gets Active provided an excellent opportunity for our members to be educated about the importance of maintaining an active and nutritional lifestyle during the Summer break.
Oliwia writes for Oasis Blog
Hi! My name is Oliwia Osinska and I have been a member of Oasis since a young age. My mum works there and when I was small, I visited her quite often and began to participate in Oasis projects. Since becoming a member of Oasis, I have become more confident participating and speaking up as well as feeling more comfortable speaking in front of others.
One of the projects I am currently involved in is Energize which is a sports and healthy eating project. I joined this because I felt that in my every day life, I was not motivated to do exercise and I thought through the project I would find exercise and healthy eating easier and more enjoyable. In Energize we don’t just play the sports that we usually would play at school or see on TV like football or rugby, we look at the different sports available to us within our community like badminton, basketball, American football and even walking football. We also explored different cultural recipes like Polish meatballs, Portuguese chicken and healthy desserts.
The thing I enjoy most about Energize is the sense of family and belonging I have found there. Some individuals who I probably wouldn’t get along with otherwise have turned out to be really kind and fun people in an inclusive, nurturing environment. As well as it being fun to be part of, Energize has also equipped me with some great skills such as teamwork, sportsmanship and handling / dealing with pressure.
Energize isn’t the only thing I have been involved with in Oasis; I’ve volunteered at Summer Scheme and Portadown Gets Active, been a member of Melody of Movements and United Stars and also been given the opportunity to gain my Level 1 OCN in Youth Work Practice. I definitely see myself remaining part of Oasis in the future and I would love to be able to participate in Friends Forever and/or Youth Forum once I become old enough.