Bridges and Barriers to Unity: A Toolkit for Youth Work to Promote Diversity and Inclusion is a resource manual borne from several organisations coming together to discuss how to support youth workers in promoting diversity and inclusion in their youth work. In 2016, at the AGM of the Galway County Comhairle na nÓg committee [Youth Council for young people 12-17 years] in the Connemara Coast Hotel, Co. Galway, 200 young people from across Galway County participated in a range of workshops that the committee felt were important issues for young people. One of these workshops was called ‘Supporting Refugees’ and it was delivered by Carmel Irandoust from World Vision Ireland. At the time in 2016, the committee felt that the plight of refugees had already reached crisis point; they believed that young people needed to have their say in how they could support refugees that were arriving in Ireland and to Galway in particular. The young people attending the AGM voted overwhelmingly for the Comhairle na nÓg committee to work on the issue of ‘Supporting Refugees’ as their main topic for 2016/2017. The committee were very happy to take on this challenge and over the year they participated in training to educate themselves on how they could support refugees. Aware also of the responsibility to keep children and young people safe and protected from harm in accordance with the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, the Committee planned and delivered workshops, events and activities to help them achieve their aim of supporting refugees. The work they did culminated in the committee being awarded an ‘IPB Pride of Place Award’ in 2017 for their work in welcoming the Syrian refugee families who had resettled in county Galway.
At the 2017 AGM, the committee continued to work on the topic and at the AGM they hosted workshops to give the young people attending an insight into the work they had done the previous year. As a result of this the attendees voted on ‘Challenging Prejudices’ as the priority issue for the committee to work on in 2017/2018. Throughout the year the committee participated in training to increase their knowledge around this issue. They hosted and delivered workshops on how to challenge prejudice and some of these activities are included in the resource manual. Whilst the young people in the committee were participating in training and educating themselves on how to support refugees and challenge barriers that promoted unity, it was felt that there could be better support for youth workers in this area. This is where the seed was sown to create a resource for youth workers based on the practical experience, information and research already in existence from the organisations that had been working on this topic for the previous two years.
This resource would not have been possible without the collaboration of the people and organisations who supported the committee and who then worked together to produce this outcome, kindly funded by the Irish Centre for Human Rights. During this process, Youth Work Ireland Galway worked in partnership with Galway County Council, World Vision Ireland and the National Youth Council of Ireland. A special word of thanks to the members of the Galway County Comhairle na nÓg committee who spread the message of unity in our community and together we are stronger.