SWICN Clubhouse

In the corner of a carpark off Rainsford Street in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties is the SWICN (South West Inner City Network) Clubhouse. A place that can only be described as bright and welcoming, it’s covered in colour from floor to ceiling and is a safe, creative environment for children aged 10-18 to come and work on meaningful projects that they might otherwise not have the opportunity to explore.

As soon as you open the door of the building you feel the creative, enthusiastic atmosphere. The walls are covered in bright paint and plastered with artwork and pictures of the members doing different activities and going on trips. The safe and relaxing vibe continues as you go upstairs where a lot of the activities take place.

One of the key features of this organisation is that it is voluntary; it’s not like school, anyone that comes, comes because they want to not because they have to.

The Clubhouse has so many fantastic facilities including a multimedia room with coding equipment, robotics, cameras and recording equipment and computers with professional Adobe software. There’s a studio for members where kids can make music with a host of different instruments. As well as this, they have an arts and crafts room, a kitchen, a ‘maker space’, a chill-out room with couches and pool tables, a garden full of freshly planted strawberries and the building is also wheelchair accessible.

The kids that come to the Clubhouse have access to all of this equipment and while they often collaborate and work on many group projects, they are also encouraged to work individually on projects that are related to their own interests. The learning model is core in everything the Clubhouse does. They focus on learning through doing, following your own interests and building a community.

Meadhbh Cooke, one of the youth workers in the organisation says everything that happens in the Clubhouse is youth-led. “We don’t do anything for them, learning through doing is so important. We give young people the chance to try new things in a non-formal environment. The kids do things themselves and we encourage them, it’s very practical.”

The members’ ideas of what they would like to do are always considered and the staff in the Clubhouse are always open to suggestions for new activities. “We get them to tell us what they want to do and we try our best to make it happen”, says Cooke.

The final aim is to build trust and relationships and create a community. This is the main idea behind everything that happens in the Clubhouse, getting rid of hostile behaviours and getting on well is what it all boils down to. “There are certain groups we target, those in at-risk environments who may have issues such as alcoholism, drug abuse, violence or come from any type of hostile environment are encouraged to come into the Clubhouse. These groups can be particularly at risk of leaving education and while the Clubhouse is not connected to schools, they do encourage members to continue education in some way. It also gives them a place to spend some time away from any other difficulties in their lives and to have some space to themselves”, Cooke added.  

There is thought behind this learning model she says, “everyone has different learning styles, some people are very hands-on so here, they get to learn the way they want to learn.”

There are about 60-70 young people attending the Clubhouse every week and none of them have to pay a penny. One of the most amazing things about this service is that it’s free. They are funded by the City of Dublin Youth Services Board (CDYSB) and the Education and Training Board (ETB).

However, not all of the Clubhouse’s resources are as plentiful as they would like. There are only two youth workers in the organisation and the majority of the other workers are volunteers. “Adding another person would help”, says Cooke, hence why they are so grateful for their volunteers and are always looking for more.

The team are eager to recruit new volunteers for their 2019 summer programme. You can contact the Clubhouse and find out more through their website, www.theclubhouse.i

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