When BeLonG To first opened their doors, young LGBTI+ people travelled for as long as 3 hours to attend youth groups and access support.
Their National Network was set up to provide nationwide support for young LGBTI+ people closer to home. They now work in partnership with Youth Work Ireland, Foróige, and several community groups to support almost 40 LGBTI+ groups from Kerry to Leitrim.
Over the coming months, they will share a snapshot of these LGBTI+ youth groups, starting with Youth Work Ireland Galway Group, shOUT!
shOUT! is a group in Galway for young people who identify as LGBT+ and their friends, to gather in a safe and supportive environment, to have fun, chat, meet new people, and take part in various activities. Below, BeLonG To chats to Youth Work Ireland Project Worker, Anne-Marie Hession who looks after shOUT!
What is the best thing about shOUT!?
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a young person who maybe did not speak for the first few groups, become the outspoken leader. Or seeing a young person who said they have no friends, gaining strong and supportive friendships with other young people from the group. Some of the other best things are seeing all the young people in the group interact with each other, the energy and love they share, and how protective and supportive they are of not only themselves, but of anyone who identifies as LGBT+.
What does a typical group meeting look like?
Our activities vary depending on the wishes of the young people; we could be gathered around a table making handmade journals, learning to sew through upcycling clothing, sitting around drinking tea and discussing current issues, making delicious treats to eat, music and songwriting workshops, drag workshops, film making or raising awareness. There is always something planned around what the group wants to do.
What were some highlights over the past year?
One moment that really sticks out was our participation in Galway Pride. It was a day where one was very proud to be Galwegian, as people lined the streets of our beautiful city to cheer on and show their support for the LGBT+ community. As the song says: “My mama told me, there’ll be days like this”, and this was one of those days!
ShOUT! also delivered LGBT+ Awareness workshops to over 1,100 students in various post-primary schools across Galway, delivered Stand Up Awareness Week training, and LGBT+ inclusivity training to teachers, and took part in Youth Work Ireland, Galway’s first Camping trip.
How would you say that BreakOUT has impacted the local community?
In Galway City and County, we see that our work in the school and community is having a positive impact in the community. People know they can reach out to us, and we will help in whatever way we can.
We have been to many schools across Galway to deliver our LGBT+ awareness workshop, and we have received such overwhelming positive feedback. Additionally, schools are reporting that they have seen a reduction in homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia across the school, as well as students being more accepting of LGBT+ students.