BeLonG To wanted to bring support closer to their homes, so they set up a national network to support LGBTI+ Youth Groups across Ireland. They work in partnership with Youth Work Ireland, Foróige, and several community groups, to support nearly 40 LGBTI+ groups up and down the country, from Kerry to Donegal.
Now LGBTI+ groups across Ireland have had to adapt their work to digital platforms, given the COVID-19 restrictions. BeLonG To wanted to check in and see how ChillOUT in Waterford were holding up, and find out more about what makes them wonderful.
ChillOUT are the local group in Waterford, and they meet every Sunday. BeLonG To asked their members to describe the group:
“Describe your group in 3 words.
Fun, freeing, and safe.
What’s the best thing about being a part of ChillOUT?
The people. We are all full of joy and make each other feel like we belong. It’s also a great way to get to know other LGBTI+ people in the area.
What were some highlights over the past year?
There were so many! We worked on a project to raise awareness amongst professionals about how to best support LGBTI+ young people and we developed a storytelling booklet, too. Being a part of Pride was also such a wonderful experience last year, and who can forget our karaoke and movie nights.
How are you adapting your services to social distancing?
During this challenging time, we’ve been providing one-to-one support over WhatsApp, Facebook and Zoom and we continue our groups online. We’ve been trying our best to adapt to the situation, but of course but it can be hard not being able to see each other in person. We all miss getting and giving hugs when we need them, but we still provide each other with as much support as we can given the circumstances.
What are you most proud of doing in your local community?
It’s been a wonderful experience creating a space for each other that feels safe and accepting. Whether it’s amongst us as a group or marching in Pride, it’s been an honour to walk alongside each other in our journeys of development, self-discovery, acceptance and working together for change”.