Dick O’Donovan is the regional manager for Foróige in the West of ireland and is based in Galway. He participated in the exchange in its first year 2006. Since then Dick and Foróige have continued to build links with youth work organisations in Zambia. In April 2011, Dick travelled back to Zambia accompanying a group of young people from Connemara. This article reflects Dick’s experience since 2006. More information on the return visit this year is coming soon.
The Zambia-Ireland exchange helped me to reignite contacts and make me aware of current issues and developments in the non-formal education sector of youth work in Zambia.
The NYCI exchange enabled me to see some of the work being done by groups like Sport in Action, and the Scouts in Zambia among others. Essentially I was involved in the exchange with a view to building contacts to see if there was a viable role for us in terms of developing development education as a living part of our work. This has taken a few years to happen but it has happened and mainly from indirect contacts made during that visit and other independent developments here. The main effect the exchange had on me was reigniting contact with people I had worked with years earlier and now involving them in our work here and in Zambia.
The impact on Foróige is difficult to say, however this trip and others by other staff members combined with developments and links through NUI Galway UNESCO Chair and Alan Kerins Projects have seen our involvement in development education progress significantly.
The impact this will have on young people we will know more after our immersion trip taking place in April 2011, which is being evaluated and researched. In essence during my trip I believed that unless there was future joint work with community-based youth groups in Ireland and Zambia the trip would not be worthwhile. I also realised that it would take a few years for any programme of this nature to materialise.
Fortunately through our work with Alan Kerins Projects and NUI Galway UESCO Chair and Colaiste Chroi Mhuire (via the Leadership group of Transition Year students) this is now in process.
Michelle Hennessey a former Foróige colleague is now volunteering in Zambia and preparing youth work groups on the ground to engage with Irish youth travelling in April 2011. The programme will see the youth share discussion groups facilitated by volunteers from both countries, engage in peer education programmes including making a documentary, recording songs and cultural activity exchange and learning.
From an Irish perspective the young people have engaged in a development education programme of learning about Zambia and developmental issues, they have also raised funds through activities they organised themselves. The key difference between this programme and others is the community-based aspect where our young people will integrate with peers in Zambia doing joint activities planned and organised by the young people from both communities. One key aspect has been raising awareness locally of developmental issues especially among young people here in the West and Gaeltacht region. As I have said there will be a lot of learning from this initial programme, we will study the evaluation and documentary closely. If successful we are hoping that – with support from Vodafone who are funding part of the programme and helping build accommodation – there will be a number of programmes run annually and our long term aim is to see the programme operating both ways.