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Just the Start, by Tammy Tallon (Ronanstown Youth Service)

Tammy Tallon is a youth worker with Ronanstown Youth Service, in North Clondalkin and participated in the exchange in 2009. Here, tammy relfects on the similarities she witnessed between youth work in Ireland and Zambia, and how the exchange led her to become more active in development education in youth work.

I applied for the NYCI Zambia / Ireland youth work exchange in 2009, and was in shock when I was accepted! To this point I had participated in One World Week with the National Youth Council of Ireland and really wanted to expand on the work that we had begun with our young people. I was very anxious before the trip, I had never been to Africa before and didn’t know what to expect. I can honestly say that this trip has changed me in so many ways.

The trip to Zambia was a whirlwind of emotion and discovery. We visited a wide range of agencies and projects that were doing great work and reaching those that needed it the most. I meet some of the most powerful young people; young people who make a difference in their communities. The projects in Zambia may not have some of the facilities that we take for granted here in Ronanstown, but they work from the same principle, that encourages participation and empowerment of young people. I think that is why the partnerships between Zambian and Irish Youth Workers is such a success as our youth work has much in common. There are many memories that I hold dear from the exchange, I learnt so much and have carried that learning back to Ronanstown.   

I think walking around Garden Compound (a slum area) in Lusaka is something that will stay with me forever. To that day Development Education was something I read about and had an interest in but from that day Development Education was something that was real to me. The Project we visited was YOFOSO youth project, which we visited a few times during our stay. Each time there was always loads of children in the programme. They did homework, sports, and dance - all from one room. The staff were all volunteers and lived for the work that they did with the young people.  the young people were delighted with the visitors and you could really see that this project was so important to all the young people.

Tammy with a young football team from YOFOSO in Zambia

Tammy with the girls' football team of YOFOSO, Lusaka

We also spent time at the Barefeet Project which had a huge impact on the young people involved. They introduced us to their Street Dance Performance and Theatre work, and seeing the work that they did with young people and the opportunities that they had given their young people shows how much of a success there programme was. Finally I think something that will stay with me was the walk with the YMCA to where the street kids lived in Lusaka city, and the local outreach team who provide a vital lifeline to those who have nothing, I have kept regular contact with one of the outreach team there and can say that without this project some young people would have no food or clothing. This for me hit home the reality of the situation in Zambia. And it again made me realise the great youth work that is carried out there.

  Tammy with some of the outreach workers from YMCA Zambia  

Tammy with some of the outreach team from YMCA Zambia, including Peter Simukanyze

The trip has been the start of something that I feel will continue with me my whole life. Since that trip I have completed the FETAC level 5 Global Justice in Youth Work course with NYCI and the YMCA. I have also continued to participate in One World Week and link in with the participants of the exchange. I have become a member of the Development Education Advisory Group and I have developed many links and partnerships with some of the youth workers that have visited Ireland. Here in Ronanstow we hosted one of the Zambian youth workers for 2 days on a placement in 2010.

One of my aims is to bring some of the young people I work with to Zambia, to give them the opportunity that I have had and to forge lasting links between Ronanstown and Zambia. The young people have gained an interest and formed links with some of the Zambian youth workers and we hope to continue and further the partnership.       

From this trip, I have made many friends in both Zambia and Ireland and links that continue to this day, the exchange for me was just the start. I would like to thank the staff of the Development Education Programme for their encouragement and support, and for the opportunity.    

Ronanstown Youth Service is part of Catholic Youth Care. For more information, click here.