Kirsty is currently studying Social Studies at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), and is a volunteer at Sosad on emergency phone line at the weekend. She took part in YSI in 2008.
When did you take part in Young Social Innovators and what was your project about?
I took part in YSI in 2008 and at that particular time some of the travelling girls in my Youthreach were doing a project called “Pavee beurs”. I was intrigued by their work and saw the passion that they had for their project mainly because it was about their culture, so it impacted them. After some thinking some while later I had an “ah-ha” moment. I came up with the topic of domestic violence, mainly because I had a grown up in a violent household as a child and both then and now realised what a hidden issue domestic violence is and there is a real stigma that surrounds it and its victims. I really wanted to change that in some way no matter how small, and so began “behind closed doors”, which is where most abuse takes place, closed off from the outside world. Whilst I had lived it and had the experience of such a frightening situation, the statistics staggered me, and I wanted to let others know how big of an issue this was in our society. I linked in with different organisations and from that developed a PowerPoint to deliver presentations to quite literally anybody who would listen to me! In order to raise awareness around domestic violence, we also created a short advert, leaflets and posters. I believe I could have taken the project further than this, but feel I achieved a lot at that time, both for the community and on a personal level.
What impact did your project have on your local or wider community?
The project definitely had an impact and shone a positive light on our Youthreach group. Alongside the many presentations I did in schools, women’s groups, adult education and travelling training centres, I allowed domestic violence to be spoken about and not be kept “behind closed doors”. I feel that that in itself is a good enough achievement for those affected by the issue. I truly believe that is how change for anything occurs; people setting out to make small changes and from that big changes can happen.
What impact did taking part in YSI have on you?
YSI allowed me to discover my hidden talents, mainly my good communications skills, and that I’ve been gifted in public speaking, something I would never have realised without taking part in YSI. It has allowed me to see that we all have a voice and sometimes we need not be so afraid of using it, as real change only comes about when we have the courage to speak out! You really can be the change you want to see in the world once you use your voice and believe in yourself.
How has your YSI experience influenced the person you are today?
YSI has had an immense influence on the person I am today and still continues to do so. It gave me courage to believe in myself; it instilled in me a confidence in myself that once was not there. Being part of YSI taught me many lessons; it taught me that people can follow their passions to succeed in life; it taught me that sometimes what people can consider a bad experience can be changed into a positive one and from that can help others and that is powerful! Before my YSI experience, I often questioned whether I should be sharing my story with other people, then I realised that being real and open are far more important, especially for any change to occur! I am now in college studying social studies with my first year completed, and still continue to be inspired by YSI.
Why do you think it is important to empower young people to realise their potential as positive change-makers?
Empowering young people is so important in Ireland today mainly because they are the future and we need a fresh approach on things. Secondly, as a society we face more issues and challenges than ever before; issues which many young people in Ireland experience. Sometimes they just need a project or activity that captures their imagination, so that they inspire others and themselves! And most importantly, it allows young people to use their voice and be heard. Inspiring them to follow their dreams and be the change that they want to see in the world.