‘Looking Forward Not Back’, based at YouthLink Scotland, was funded through the Scottish Government’s ‘Tackling Sectarianism’ programme. The project worked with five youth work organisations across Scotland, examining the nature of the contribution youth work can make in tackling sectarianism. As part of this, young people in each of their communities were supported to conduct their own research on sectarianism.
16 year old Adele Martin from South Lanarkshire tells us why her experience of anti-sectarian project, Looking Forward Not Back, was a personal turning point for her.
I have been involved in the Looking Forward Not back project for two years. Over the two years I have been working on two different projects with other young people in Hamilton Universal Connections. Hamilton Universal Connections is a youth project and allows young people to explore topics and issues in a safe environment to develop knowledge and understanding, which allows myself and other young people to make positive informed life choices.
This project has helped me to learn lots of new skills and has helped to develop the qualities I will need to become a youth worker. I would never have got involved in anything like this at school because I was never confident enough to mix with people or talk to them, now after taking part in this project I can speak with people very easily and I now have the courage to stand in front of an audience and my peers. This is all because of the youth workers who have encouraged me and always believed in me. They have given me the chance to actually become a youth worker. They have encouraged me to become more involved in the centre’s activities and volunteer to help other young people. By doing my volunteering I have achieved my 200hrs Saltire Award. I would never have achieved this if I hadn’t been involved in LFNB.
As well as becoming more confident I have learned how to do new things. I helped to make a DVD for our first Looking Forward Not Back task, and to do this I had to be part of a bigger team, this has given me the confidence to speak up and put my voice and ideas forward. I had to be able to help solve problems and doing this during the project has improved how I communicate with people, this has also helped me when I went to get an interview for college and when I got interviewed for my job. Without the confidence and being able to speak to people I would never have been successful. I now have a job as an escort taking young people to school and back home every day.
During the project I also learned that I did not need to read and write to learn, the youth workers did lots of different activities with us so that we could learn all about sectarianism but because I wasn’t good at reading and writing I was afraid. But my youth workers helped me they gave me loads of support and guidance and helped me to learn using different ways, when I was at school this never happened I always felt I was left to struggle on my own.
When I was asked to be part of the second project I really wanted to do it. I had the chance to get another qualification for doing research into sectarianism in our communities. I knew this was going to help me more, I had to speak to people, I had to collect information (I had never done anything like this before), then I had to stand up in front of people and present the findings. I knew I could do this because I was more confident and I knew the youth workers would always be there to help and support me.
Being part of this project has been great for me and if I could I would tell every young person to get involved with youth work it has helped me to become much more confident and have belief in myself to make the right choices in my life all thanks to youth work and youth workers who cared about me.
A toolkit produced by Looking Forward Not Back on supporting young people to take action on sectarianism, can be found here: www.actiononsectarianism.info/library-main/activities/looking-forward-not-back-toolkit-year-2