The Southern Star Saturday 30th November 2013
Busy time helping people of all ages
Kirstie Smith (Dunmanway Family Resource Centre)
What a year – working on everything from a rap album to boxing training, while at the same time helping to oversee a variety of initiatives from parenting courses to summer camps!
Kirstie Smith is well known in Dunmanway – her busy job as a Family Support Worker at the Dunmanway Family Resource Centre brings her into contact with a wide variety of people who range in age from babies to pensioners. With co-worker Ita Harris, she runs a number of community groups, including a parent and toddler group, a baby talk group, parenting courses, summer camps and a Men’s Shed group.
A particularly enjoyable aspect of the job, she says, is working with local teenagers, from age 12 to 18 on a variety of projects: ‘We have a boxing club with more than 40 members, male and female and three coaches, though we plan to train up some more in the New Year.’
It came from small beginnings she said, but is now a roaring success, meeting twice a week, Monday and Thursday, 7 to 9.30pm in the Dunmanway Community Sports Hall.
One of the highlights of 2013 for Kirstie – and she says, she has many – was a highly successful project to create a rap album. ‘We had about 15 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 working on it. The idea for the rap album came from them – they were badgering me to do an album.’
The rap project actually began back in 2009 and, up to now, the young musicians had produced a number of single tracks – but 2013 was the year of their big splash: ‘It was the first time they got to do an album! I was hugely impressed by the content of the lyrics – the songs looked at everything from day-to-day life in Dunmanway to issues such as domestic violence and feelings of powerlessness.
‘The teenagers spent five months composting the lyrics and then put them to music with the help of Lorraine King-Marshall, a musician from Courtmacsherry.’
They recorded their album Livin Tha’ Good Life with GMC Studios in Knowknaheehy, run by Cork rappper Garry McCarthy and performed in the Youth Café in September before a large audience.
‘They had something real,’ say Kirstie. They worked hard, and were extremely focused and very determined. The project had benefits for them all: ‘It was a character-building exercise. The group members matured in the dealings with each other and with the adults involved.’
The Centre was later approached by the West Cork Women Against Violence. The organisers of a conference on domestic violence, they wanted a rap song: ‘A different group took took this project on, though two members of the original group were involved.’
The group later performed it at the conference in Bantry. ‘It was fantastic to see them up on stage performing – it was fabulous,’ she recalls.
Another project that really blossomed this year, says Kirstie was the Dunmanway Youth Café. Based upstairs in St. Patrick’s Hall, the Youth Café’s membership this year increased to 140 teenages, and now boasts a team of 25 volunteers.
The 37-year old mother of two loves working with young people: ‘They are very energetic and it’s fun dealing with them. When you get to know them, it reminds you of what it’s like to be young!’