It's all happening at The Vault

DROP-IN CENTRE FOR CARLOW'S YOUTH PROVING VERY POPULAR

SOPHIE KELLY

Published 15/05/2012 | 10:39

Oisin Comerford, Oisin Moore, Jason Fagan and Barry Walsh enjoying a game of WII in The Vault.

WALKING DOWN Burrin Street, you may not notice anything of great importance. There are houses, offices and shops to let on either side. But if you look a little closer, you will see a large white building with some artwork on the windows which is a hive of activity for young people coming and going. This building is known as The Vault which took up residence in the old credit union building five years ago.

Set up by Carlow Regional Youth Services (CRYS) and Carlow VEC, The Vault is Carlow's first and only youth cafe to cater for the young people of Carlow. It provides a recreational area designed for those who are of secondary school age, to hang out with friends and take part in activities in a fun and safe environment while also offering support to those who are in need.

Open 6 days a week, The Vault strives to include everyone as one of the Youth Workers Leanne Sweeny explains. 'Here at The Vault our main focus is integration and inclusion. We have many different people here from all backgrounds, from those who have a disability to the Rohingya community to those young people who just want to hang out for a couple of hours. When someone comes in to us we can look at the needs at the individual and offer fun activities for them to get involved in as well as support; be it in education, health etc. Although it can be as simple as just having someone to chat to. We always have two Youth Workers on site as well as volunteers which are made up of 2nd and 3rd level students.'

Looking around The Vault, it's hard to know where to start when listing out all of the events and activities that take place. There's colourful artwork all over the walls as well as a fuse ball table and table tennis along with comfortable couches you can sink into with a cup of tea in hand.

'We would get about 200-300 young people coming through the door each week for loads of different things such as Arts and Crafts, Pool Competitions, Playstation tournaments and Premiere League football nights. Friday nights is band night which is huge, last week we had over 100 teenagers in. The place was hopping.'

The Vault is also keen to give ownership of the project to the teenagers themselves. ' We very much want to empower young people and feel like they are contributing to the decisionmaking,' Leanne said. ' This place is for them so they should equally have a say in how it is run, which is why we have established the Vault Youth Committee to represent the views of all the teenagers who drop in. '

Funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, The Vault has not been immune to the recent cutbacks. Leanne admits, 'It has been difficult and worrying but we do not involve the young people. All of the facilities are free for them to use. We do ask them to sign up for membership which is €2 for 2 years and they will receive a membership card where they can avail of discounts in businesses such as the Dome, Supermacs and Connie Byrne Hyland Hairdressing.'

The future is certainly looking very bright and busy for The Vault. Recently, a support group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) young people was set up, the first of its kind in Carlow.

'Hopefully funding will be forthcoming and we can extend our level of support in conjunction with Belongto, which is the national youth service for LGBT young people'. The Vault also collaborates with the Eigse Festival displaying artwork and participating in community art activities. ' Last year we had a fashion show known as Operation Revamp, where those involved bring in old clothes and give them a makeover. It was great fun and some amazing talent emerged.'

' There's so much to get involved in, and The Vault is only one of the great projects that CRYS runs. It really is a happy place here and a great environment to be in.'

For more info go to www.carlowys.ie or call The Vault on 059-9133714

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