Awarded the €30,000 for its Jumping Hurdles Horse Project, Extern Limerick provides young people across Limerick city with the competencies to seek and gain employment in the equine sector. We caught up with Extern Limerick project coordinator Robbie Corrigan to find out how much of a difference this funding will make to young people in Limerick.

Can you explain how your charity helps young people?

Extern, is the leading social justice charity on the island of Ireland and in Limerick our work is with vulnerable young people who are referred to us by the Child and Family Agency, the National Education Welfare Board, or the Irish Youth Justice Service. The purpose is to help them make changes in their own lives.

It’s a voluntary service – young people come to us and agree to work with us and we build a relationship. They could have many issues – emotional, behavioural or mental health issues - they might be in trouble with the law, or they aren’t going to school. They’re assigned a key worker and that key worker will build up a relationship with the young person and then after a number of weeks they’ll sit down and make a plan to help that young person to progress. We’re currently working annually with around 120 young people in Limerick and the mid-west.

How will this award help you further your work?

The project we have been awarded funding for is a horse education project called Jumping Hurdles. Young people in Limerick city have a love and dedication to horses – they really care for their horses. It’s an issue in Limerick city because there’s a law saying you can’t have horses within the city limits, but they’re everywhere, so it creates conflict within the community and the authorities.

What we’re hoping to do is provide a means for the young people to learn about horses and then channel that love of horses into looking after themselves. This will help build their self-esteem, confidence and leadership skills.

They’ll learn about stable management and horse riding skills and they’ll also learn around their own personal development in terms of their physical and mental health. So it’s a two track programme – looking after the horses and looking after themselves.

The ultimate aim is they will get a job in the equine industry. They could become a jockey or could be a stable hand or even a farrier doing the shoeing on the horses – there are a range of possibilities there for them.

Thank You Fund Winners Extern Limerick

What inspired the programme and who will directly benefit from your Coca-Cola Thank You Fund grant?

There were two young people who inspired me. One was a 12-year-old boy with foetal alcohol syndrome and the other was a young man who came from a culture of criminality. Those two young people had a love of horses and desperately wanted to become jockeys. I was talking to them and the penny just dropped and I thought: “You know what, I’m going to set up a horse education project for those two young boys so they can go and do the thing that they love, and so they can be empowered enough to be able to take charge of their own lives and lead an independent life.” They will be involved in this project and lots of other kids like them.

What difference will this award make to your charity?

It’s pivotal. It’s key. All 100% of this funding will go directly to help educate the young people we work with. Without this €30,000 from the Coca Cola Thank You Fund, our work would still be just an idea, a pipedream.

With this funding we can inspire young people to go ahead and lead their lives the way they want.

How does it feel to have won?

We are ecstatic! Our work is about supporting and inspiring young people in their communities to help them progress. We work in partnership with young people so it’s about helping them take control of their own lives and develop their own lives, so ultimately, when they grow up, they will be leaders in their own community and they will come back and be able to inspire young people in their own communities. So this money will impact future generations.

How can people get involved or help out with your charity?

We have students that come from Limerick Institute of Technology and we also have other volunteers that come along and assist. The organisation has very good experience of volunteering and encouraging volunteering – you can’t put a programme like this together without help. And it also helps develop a connection with the community. If anyone wishes to volunteer with Extern they can call the Limerick office of Extern on 061457222 for an initial chat with us.

See the full list of 2016 Coca-Cola Thank You Fund winners

Judge Deirdre Finlay explains why Extern Limerick stood out…

“This project was just so inventive and innovative,” says Deirdre. “They really articulated the value of what they are doing in terms of working with disadvantaged young people and engaging them in an activity that they are already passionate about, rather than bringing them into something that maybe they’ll like or won’t like.

“These young people are really engaged – they want to work with horses, they already love them. It’s very clever and inventive because it is also addressing other issues for them and raising future leaders and also bringing an employment element, which I really like.”

Find out more about the 2016 winners’ ceremony.

Applications for the Thank You Fund 2017 are now open. Find out more about the Thank You Fund 2018.