On entering Ballylynch’s new youth cafe on a Monday evening, a contented group of teenagers are playing on an X-box in one corner while over on the couch a game of cards is underway as supplies of popcorn and hot chocolate are prepared in the kitchenette.
It’s a cosy, homely scene, a haven where the large housing estate’s young people can gather to socialise in a safe environment.
The youth cafe, located on the second floor of Ballylynch’s Community Playschool at Killonerry Close, was opened six weeks ago by Carrick-on-Suir’s Foroige Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP), which runs a similar youth cafe at its centre on the town’s Kickham Street.
It was the brainchild of Ballylynch resident Daryl Walsh, who reached the national final of the Lions Club Youth Awards in 2011 arising from his community work through the Neighbourhood Youth Project. The E500 Lions Club bursary he received at that time was invested in this project.
Anne Howard of Carrick-on-Suir NYP said NYP’s youth committee, comprising the project’s older teenagers, set up the cafe. The committee really pushed for it as they saw a need for such a meeting place for Ballylynch’s young people, she told The Nationalist.
The cafe is open two evenings a week. It caters for local teenagers aged between 13 and 18 on Mondays when it is open between 6.30pm and 8pm and for children aged between 10 and 12 on Fridays when it’s open between 7pm and 9pm.
Anne said seven parents from Ballylynch have been trained as leaders to supervise the cafe and a group of the NYP’s older teenagers act as youth leaders. She is very impressed by the great community spirit in the estate of about 200 houses.
The teenagers, who visit the cafe, are free to watch television, play cards, pool, board games, X-box games, enjoy a chat and refreshments with friends.
Anne said more structured games and activities are organised for the children aged between 10 and 12 who visit the cafe on Fridays.
Eighteen years-old Tomás Roche from Ballylynch was one of the young people enjoying a game of cards at the cafe when The Nationalist visited.
He has been involved in NYP for eight years and is one of the cafe’s youth leaders, and helps run the Friday cafe for the younger age group.
Tomas said the cafe was a great alternative to hanging around the estate and is especially welcome on rainy evenings.
He reports that the cafe has been more or less full since it opened in March and the young children are queuing up to join the Friday evening cafe as soon as they turn ten years-old.
“If I wasn’t here I would just be sitting at home doing nothing. It’s stopping me from hanging around. There aren’t that many facilities around. Some people play soccer but when it’s raining it’s very hard to find something to do,” he told The Nationalist.
Genie Thompson, one of parent volunteers, who supervise at the youth cafe, said both her daughters attend the cafe to socialise with their friends.
“One girl goes on the Monday night and one goes on the Friday night. I know all the boys and girls that come here. I think it’s a great opportunity for them. Some of the older ones are helping out; it keeps them occupied and it’s some place for them to go on a wet night.
“We have a set of rules in the cafe that the kids must abide by but they have all been good,” she added.
Anyone wishing to find out more about the Ballylynch Youth Cafe should contact Carrick-on-Suir Neighbourhood Youth Project at (051) 645967.