‘Living in a city where your address does not limit your access to opportunities’

The Liberate Youth Programme aims to make room for positive change for young people in the Liberties community.

Solas Project launched their new Liberate youth programme space at the Coombe last month. 

Solas Project is a charity that began in 2007 as an after-school facility for primary school children, and now serves young people from ages five to 24.

Funded by the Department of Children and the City of Dublin Youth Service Board, the Solas Liberate Youth Programme was founded to help young people aged ten to 24 in the Liberties and surrounding areas.

“The name Liberate comes from our desire for our young people to experience the freedom of reaching their full potential through the youth work process,” said Jamin Keogh, community and youth worker at Liberate. “The name ‘Liberate’ is also a play on ‘The Liberties’ and ‘Dublin 8’; both communities in which we are deeply embedded, work, and grow.

“It was important for us to celebrate with the young people and the community. The launch was equally important to them as it was to the Liberate and Solas Project team. We have worked diligently to get to where we are now, and we’re only getting started,” Keogh said. 

Liberate works with about 100 young people.

“We firmly believe that each young person in the Liberties has the value to contribute to their community and the wider society.”

jAmin keogh

“We want to influence and be a part of changing the systems and structures of inequalities that cause many of society’s problems. We want to see change in educational disadvantage, mental health problems, employment opportunities, and living in a city where your address does not limit your access to opportunities,” Keogh said. 

“This is not something we can do alone. It is done in partnership with the community. We create the conditions to have those critical conversations that raise the consciousness of the community so that they can use their voice to create ‘real change’,” Keogh added. 

Youth work has benefits for young people to help them take ownership of their own lives and create a sense of identity and belief in themselves. 

“We firmly believe that each young person in the Liberties has the value to contribute to their community and the wider society. Liberate aims to work in collaboration with the young people to mitigate the power imbalances, to create equal opportunities, to recognize their own value and to have their voices heard,” Keogh said. 

Youth workers and students going to a team development session as part of the program. Source: Jamin Keogh

Through the different planned activities and support systems, youth work can also create conditions for young people to retell their own narratives. 

“Our approach to program planning of activities often depends on the specific needs of young people we engage with. We are participating in the Teenager and the Guards (TAG) programme. The aim of the 6-week TAG Programme is to promote positive relationships and an understanding between young people and the Garda Síochána,” Keogh said. 

The Liberate Youth Project will be open 6 days a week, engaging with young people on late nights, weekends, and overnight trips.  

“We engage in programmes with an emphasis on school retention and promote conversations that explore themes of sexual health and drink/drug awareness. Some other activities may be of a creative focus such as baking and art. However, it must be stated that the rich and critical conversations that occur during the activity are often the most enjoyable and meaningful,” Keogh said. 

Jamin Keogh getting face painted by a youth member of the program, Source: Jamin Keogh 

There were complications that came with the launch of the Liberate space. 

“The launch date was originally set for early January 2022, but we had to postpone it due to additional Covid-19 restrictions at the time. It was bittersweet as we were disappointed that it was postponed – however, it meant that we were able to continue with our preparations and planning,” Keogh said. 

“The most significant and recurring challenge that we are facing, however, is a lack of a dedicated youth work space. The lack of space in Dublin 8 and the Liberties hinders our ability to work with and engage with young people. We had to hire a marquee to accommodate everyone in The Coombe for the launch,” Keogh added. 

The support of the Solas Project team and the young people they collaborate with helped work through any issues together. 

“Liberate’s young people were actively involved in co-planning and resolving any complications, and I believe that the event would not have been such a fun success without their dedication, their joy, and their commitment. Although things did become heated at one point over who got to sing Maniac 2000,” Keogh laughed. 

The Minister of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, attended the Liberate launch and cut the ribbon. 

“It was a pleasure to welcome Minister O Gorman to the Liberate launch. His presence at the event added a lot of excitement for the staff and the young people alike, and it created a real buzz about the event. We were honoured to be able to show off what Liberate and Solas Project have accomplished thus far and to give a tour of our facilities by our young people,” Keogh said. 

“It is worth highlighting that it is critical that policy makers and members of the government take an interest and come to celebrate the positives with the community. This sends a clear message to the young people that our government do care about them and acknowledge the unmet needs of the community,” Keogh added. 

The Solas Project team at the Launch of the Liberate Youth Program Space, Source: Jamin Keogh

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