Sunday 18 February 2018

Erasmus+ and us: 'This is our first project with an LGBT group'

Taking a breather at Errigal Youth Hostel during the Erasmus+ link-up between LGBT groups from Donegal and Finland
Taking a breather at Errigal Youth Hostel during the Erasmus+ link-up between LGBT groups from Donegal and Finland

Erasmus+ came calling at the door of the LGBT community in Donegal when a group in Finland put out a Europe-wide call for a link-up with a similar initiative.

Within months, the group from the Finnish city of Espoo was climbing Mount Errigal.

The Irish host was Donegal Youth Service (DYS) and its BreakOUT support group for young LGBT people in the county.

BreakOUT is less than a decade old. In 2009, DYS decided to launch a support service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, to see what would happen.

"We were nervous about it and even thought there might be pickets," says DYS youth worker Sinéad Murray Lynch.

Four young people turned up and BreakOut was formed. Now, it has contact with about 70 young people in the county and, as demand expands, so too have the age boundaries, recently extended from 16-23 to 12-30.

The project kicked off when a similar group from Espoo, put out an Erasmus+ call last December.

"It landed on my table," says Sinéad. "There was a lot of electronic toing and froing. They made the application for Erasmus+ funding, and we fed into that."

Six months later, last June, a group of 22, including volunteers, arrived from Espoo, and linked up with 16 from Donegal.

They based themselves in the Errigal Youth Hostel, Dunlewey, and spent five days in workshops, sharing perspectives and learning from each other, with a bit of hiking on the side. It was a great success, says Sinéad, adding that the Irish participants took "great pride in showcasing Ireland's LGBT history and how far we have come".

Now, they are working on plans for a return visit by DYS/BreakOUT, to Espoo next June.

While DYS has lots of experience with Erasmus+, including a European Voluntary Service (EVS) programme last year that brought volunteers from Spain, Italy, Jordan and Russia on a learning mission to Donegal, this is its first Erasmus+ project with an LGBT group.

Irish Independent

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