Getting disenfranchised young people interested in local issues can be a tall order, but the Donegal Youth Service is rising to that challenge. And it has just helped implement a sporty new scheme…

Martin Keeney, Youth Council coordinator from the Donegal Youth Service, tells us how €25,000 from the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund is helping to engage young people in Donegal through the Shake Up Sports scheme.

What is the Donegal Youth Council?

The Donegal Youth Service supports the Youth Council, which is made up of young people from our 31 youth groups across the county.  We aim to encourage those who aren’t yet eligible to vote to become involved with the issues and decisions that affect them most.

“Young people wanted more opportunities to try alternative sports, like Ultimate Frisbee and kayaking.”

What’s your role there?

I coordinate a group of 36 young people who represent youth organisations in the county as part of a Youth Council

The Youth Council’s objectives are to:

  • Develop projects and initiatives to help and support young people 
  • Be youth representatives and sit on a number of adult committees
  • Be a consultative body for the Donegal County Council and other bodies such as the HSE 

How did you spend the €25,000 you received from the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund?

The Youth Council felt very passionately that they wanted to develop a sports-related project. A lot of it came down to the fact that young people wanted more opportunities to try alternative sports, like Ultimate Frisbee and kayaking, as opposed to the more mainstream sports on offer in the region. 

They developed Shake Up Sports, a scheme that helps young people try new sports that they wouldn’t normally come into contact with. The Youth Council put together a format and developed taster days and then the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund gave us the opportunity to expand the project to a wider range of sports.

It was very much about targeting young people who aren't involved in sports so we focused on offering short bursts or tasters of lots of different sports and working with coaches who didn't put a huge emphasis on competition but offered plenty of encouragement.

The €25,000 specifically helped to fund:

  • Costs of setting up the taster programmes
  • New equipment 
  • Hiring sports halls
  • Bus hire in some areas where travel is an issue

How many young people has the funding helped?

The scheme works with almost 400 young people. Even now the scheme is still continuing through our youth projects. 

“Sports aren't always about being the very best and can simply be an activity that you enjoy. Just taking part has benefits for your wellbeing and can boost your mental health.”

We have young people from Cockhill near Buncrana, Falcarragh, Ballybofey – all these little pockets where maybe young people don't always get the opportunity to explore and try different sports.

What long-term advantages have there been to receiving the €25,000 grant?

Just being able to engage with the application process was a great confidence boost for those involved. It instilled a lot of pride when the application was successful.

Getting young people linked up with local clubs and coaches long-term was one of our main aims, and we've been able to buy extra equipment. 

We didn't want young people to have to travel 50 miles to the nearest club after the scheme had finished. We tried to identify clubs and coaches who could help young people with those particular sports after the end of the Shake Up Sports scheme.

On a basic level enjoyment is definitely high. We've also had lots of interesting stories of young people making new friends.

Is there anyone that specifically stands out as benefitting from the Thank You Fund?

The real benefit has been seeing people who have taken on and really benefitted from being a part of the project. We have seen young people go on to compete in javelin at provincial level in athletics simply because they got to try it out at a Shake Up Sports taster day. 

Another personal favourite was the session we ran in Stranorlar where two young females delivered the Karate sessions to the young people. You could see afterwards the amount of young girls particularly who were really taken by the fact that these two 18 year olds were so passionate about their sport and they signed up a number of people on the day to take part in future sessions. The project has helped bring down some stereotypes for people too and that is really encouraging.  

What are the other advantages of being a Coca-Cola Thank You Fund recipient?

Part of a national study says 10% of 12-13-year-olds drop out of sports, and that increases year by year. This is the age when sports generally become quite competitive. 

It’s worth remembering that sports aren't always about being the very best and can simply be an activity that you enjoy. Just taking part has benefits for your wellbeing and can boost your mental health.

Find out more about the young people helped by the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund by watching our Changing People’s Lives video.

Applications for the Thank You Fund 2017 are now open. Find out more about the Thank You Fund 2017.