Marty Hamill, Public Legal Services Division, has recently returned from his secondment with the Prince’s Trust. Below he shares some of his experiences as an Assistant Team Leader.
In June 2016 I successfully applied for a secondment with the Prince’s Trust to become an Assistant Team Leader on their Team Programme in the Colin Glen Forest Park in west Belfast. My secondment began on 19th September when I met with my new colleagues Brendan (Team Leader), Francine (Assistant Team Leader) and Rory (Delivery Manager).
The first few weeks of the secondment was to go out about around the local JBOs, hostels, homeless shelters and other various organisations within the area in order to recruit young people between the ages of 16 to 24 on to our programme. This was very challenging and I got to see first-hand the effects that substance abuse, mental health issues, homelessness and other challenges that our young people face on a day-to-day basis. It really made me realise just how lucky I was that I avoided any of these pitfalls when I was growing up. Seeing these things made me more determined to help people out and give them a hand in getting their lives back on track again and hopefully get back into some sort of education programme or employment and bring a bit of self-esteem back.
A few weeks into the programme we took our group away on a 2 night residential to Cornmill Quay in Annalong, Co Down, where we engaged in lots of fun activities including rock bouldering, kayaking, mountain bike riding around Castlewellan Forest Park and a hike around Silent Valley. This 2 night stay was great in that it gave the young people a chance to get away from their troubles at home and to have some space of their own maybe to clear their head and to give them a chance to do things they normally wouldn’t have the chance to. A great time was had by all.
Part of the programme also is a 2 week work placement in a field of the young person’s choice. This was an excellent opportunity for them to sample what it would be like to work in that field and maybe also to rethink their career choice if the placement was not to their liking. Placements ranged from office work to dog grooming and working in a dentist. All participants got so much out of this experience and some even managed to get a permanent placement which is the aim of the programme.
We also embarked on a community project where our team have to come up with an idea to give something back to the community. Our project was to restore an old rowing boat and turn it into a memorial to be situated at the lake in Colin Glen where a lady had tragically passed away last summer as the result of an accident involving a quad bike. We had to contact her family to get permission and they were absolutely delighted with the gesture from our group and gave the project their full backing.
All in all I would have to say that I enjoyed my Prince’s Trust experience and although at times it was tough to get our group motivated to come in every day (it’s a voluntary programme), I think we all achieved something through working together, and I have a sense that I have helped people to achieve their goals and point them in the right direction. I would recommend anybody to give it a go and hopefully you will get as much out of it as I have.