So September 3rd marked one full year of being in post here at Grand Lodge through the Drew Nelson Legacy Project and what a year it’s been.
But after a year in the post, I thought it was time to give everyone a brief reminder of what the key aspects of youth development, for Grand Lodge, are and how we’re working towards our goals.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
One of the most significant and important aspects of youth development is leadership.
Creating a strong core of capable, confident advocates for Orangeism who are fit to lead their communities and the wider orange family in the years to come is one of the key aims of the Drew Nelson Legacy Project and was a huge part of what Drew worked towards, and Drew's efforts are being carried on today with programmes such as our Future Leaders Initiative.
At this stage I’m delighted to announce that 17 young people from across the institution have successfully secured a place on the first phase of FLI, all of whom bring their own skills and abilities to the table to explore what our community requires, and what they as young leaders require to take those next steps in to leadership.
2019/20 Future Leaders Initiative Participants
Another vital aspect of youth development is Well-being, be it physical or mental.
I’ve been quite vocal about my thoughts on mental ill health, and as we brought to you in a recent edition of the Orange Standard, we’ve linked up with Lifeline, the Northern Ireland crisis response helpline service for people who are experiencing distress or despair.
We’re also linking up with various charities, community sector organisations and statutory agencies to support and promote initiatives and programmes which help to improve understanding of mental ill health and break the stigma surrounding it.
Now as important as mental health is, it’s also important not to forget that our physical health and well-being is just as important.
That’s why we have linked up with Rangers F.C. to deliver Fit for Life programmes, presentations and general information on our physical health and exercise.
We’re also in the process of planning several football tournaments and other sporting activities which will provide opportunities for young people to get active in a more informal and enjoyable setting than a gym.
Careers is another aspect of youth development and ensuring our young people have every opportunity to explore potential career paths and that they are properly prepared for the big bad world of employment is something we are committed to.
We have organised and supported several career fair events across the country and are still in talks to deliver more in various locations.
We also have two employability workshops which help young people get their heads around, the often stressful and confusing, employment process. Educating them on how to search and apply for jobs, build CV’s and interview successfully.
Grand Lodge Staff and members along with staff of Fivemiletown College
Skill Development and Capacity Building is another vital aspect of youth development, and arguably one which underlines everything we do and we are still exploring every possible way in which we can help our young people build and complement their current skill sets and increase their capacity.
Whether that’s with regards to their understanding of how our institution works, or how groups need to function with regards to funding, etc.
We’re also offering the Duke of Edinburgh award for any young person from the Orange Family who wants to undertake one of the most prestigious programmes available in the UK with one of the largest cultural movements in the UK.
Grand Lodge Chief Executive Iain Carlisle & Youth Development Officer Gary McAllister receiving the Duke of Edinburgh Award Licence from HRH the Earl of Wessex.
And last but by no means least and, perhaps, the most important aspect of youth development, Networking.
Whether it’s linking young people with each other and building relationships or linking them in with opportunities and programmes which will benefit them, it is all vital to the growth of our young people and our community.
Recently, we had 3 young people from the Orange Family attend the Washington Ireland Program Forum event in Coleraine, which explored new and unique ideas on how to strengthen democracy here in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
These young people all contributed fantastically over both days and were involved in some of the most interesting and exciting discussions throughout the course of the forum.
Aaron Callan, Cheryl Johnston and Simon Wiggins pictured with MLA's Robbie Butler and Claire Sugden, also pictured is GOLI Youth Development Officer Gary McAllister.
However, it is vital that more of our young people seize opportunities like this one to ensure that Unionism isn’t left behind or forgotten about when it comes to these discussions!
We’re also planning more networking events for the Orange Family to meet and engage with each other, including through our youth conferences which will help drive youth development forward and ensure that everything we do is led by our young people!
So, there we have it, one year down with many more to go, and although it’s been a busy first year, I’ve got a feeling we’re just scratching the surface!