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Youth work activities must be appropriate for the particular youth group. Consider factors such as age, gender, religion, culture and language ability when planning activities. Developing their abilities and talents may be an important aspect of the young person's involvement in the youth organisation. Financial resources may be a barrier to participation. Acknowledge and provide space for minority ethnic cultures in the activities. As with all youth work, flexibility is paramount.


Good Practice in planning your activities…


All projects featured in the “12 Steps” employed a range of different activities when working with the young people in their groups. The most important aspect was to consult with the young people on what they were interested in doing.

young people playing sport

Youth workers are often unsure of whether an integrated or targeted approach is best when working with young people from a minority ethnic background. In the experience of projects interviewed for this resource, it is important to work based on the needs and wants of the young people themselves. Many of the projects offered individual, targeted sessions as well as integrated group activities (see Step 5 ‘Involvement of Youth’).

Sport is a good way to get young people mixing together, particularly males. No.4 drop-in centre, GDYS (Galway Diocesan Youth Service) participated in the Galway Street Soccer League which was piloted in Galway in September 2008 for one year. Teams included No.4 drop-in centre, Direct Provision Centres (DPCs) in Galway which accommodate asylum seekers, and homeless services in the city.Initially there was little integration between the teams and hostilities between players arose. But according to the No. 4 youth worker, the love of soccer and constant promotion of teamwork and sportsmanship eventually led to a more open and accepting environment. Integration of the teams happened by chance when there were not enough players on the teams for a full match. They either had to play in a mixed team, or not play at all. That worked so well on that occasion that teams have been mixed successfully ever since.


Costs may be a barrierfor many young people who wish to participate in your programme, particularly for minority ethnic families. YMCA Cork introduced a scheme of a voluntary contribution of €1 for the ‘Ninos’ club, so those who could afford to pay, can. No. 4 drop-in centre in Galway also makes efforts to keep costs down. No. 4 has a low budget, so has to be creative in how it is used. Young people don’t pay to use the shower or eat, but small costs are charged for laundry, printing and photocopying services, which works well. No. 4 drop-in centre also organises two outings per year and the young people are asked to pay a contribution towards the cost of the outing.

image of a creative project

Similarly, transport can be an obstacle for young people attending your organisation. This can be true in rural or urban settings. In Bishopstown, Ógra Chorcaí’s youth workers knew that transport was often not accessible to the young Travellers. This continues to be a problem, but the youth worker there enlisted the assistance of the Community Gardaí for transport to special events – and constantly searches for creative solutions at other times! For other minority ethnic communities, Localise have found that if the project takes place where the communities already come together, it makes things a lot easier.

“Puppet creation helped young people to mask themselves personally but make a statement on an issue of concern such as name, job, relationship status, likes/dislikes etc. Young people identified issues that affect them, and discussion took place on how they would feel if that was put out in the open to the general public and how their parents would view that”. (Castlebar NYP,Foróige, youth worker)

Identity work is a crucial aspect of all youth work.For young people, opportunities to consider and discuss their identity can be an important way to voice concerns and also affirm their cultural background. The ‘Talking Heads’ puppetry project in ForóigeNeighbourhood Youth Project Castlebar explored identity in a very safe way by leading the young people through puppet creation. Initially simulation exercises were used to identify issues for young people, for instance through a moving debate with statements such as “Young people have a bad name in Ballyhaunis”, as well as personal profiles and questionnaires. Drama is also a powerful way to explore identity and young people can act out different emotions like feeling sad, or acting as if you were extremely happy. This helped young people to tap into their feelings as well as imagining their dream wishes for life. Even if you don’t work with a group with members from minority ethnic backgrounds, identity work is still relevant, especially if you are planning on introducing newcomers to a group. Young Irish people may feel that they don’t ‘have’ a culture. But feeling secure in your own cultural background is crucial for integration within society in general.

“I think they want people to understand their situation, where they’re from, and how they come from wonderful, beautiful countries.. But there are difficulties. I think it really bothers them that people see representations of Africa as very desolate, hot, starving people.….They want people to know ‘There’s another side to Africa, there’s another side to where I’m from’.” (SPARK youth worker)

Identity work can occur implicitly or explicitly in activities of your programme.Issues such as racism, discrimination or bullying may need to be dealt with explicitly. Inaccurate information about other cultures, continents and people should also be challenged. The SPARK project (Youth Work Ireland Galway) confirmed that the young people enjoy talking about their country of origin and having frank discussions. Young people coming from Africa are often bothered by misconceptions about Africa and want it to be balanced by positive images of the beautiful places they come from. They don’t want to be seen as dependent and poor. For non-threatening ways of exploring identity implicitly, cross-cultural games can be used. VSI (Voluntary Service International) used an activity called ‘Games from our childhood’ where each young person taught the others in the group a game from their own childhood. This activity was very popular as participants got to share a part of their own culture and it also highlighted similarities between many childhood games around the world.

“We play games from our childhood. That’s one thing they really, really enjoy sharing. One game that’s caught on is a game with stones from Somalia called ‘Shop’ and we’ve all learned how to count in Somali and it’s become addictive!” (VSI Teenage Programme Coordinator)

Working with young males and females together can be a barrier for some ethnic and cultural groups getting involved in youth work. Segregation based on gender may be necessary, for instance in activities such as swimming. It may also determine the type of activity on offer. A health club programme of aerobics and yoga run by Tyrrelstown Youth Initiative brought a group of girls from Eastern Europe and Ireland together. (See Step 5 Involvement of Youth)


It is important that youth organisations support the heritage language and culture of the young person. In Localise Multicultural School, young people from about 8 different national backgrounds had this opportunity. Like all young people, they like to do activities which they are interested in, but Localise always include some aspects of integration. For them, there has to be that balance. Not recognising or valuing heritage culture means that some young people from minority ethnic backgrounds either won’t come at all to your youth group or they probably won’t come back after one or two sessions. It is clear that youth work organisations need to satisfy both aspects – the integration of young people and preserving heritage identity. For instance, making your youth group an English-only space at all times may not be useful. A group contract should be discussed and rules decided together regarding when English must be spoken, and when young people can speak their native language. YMCA Cork has this balance whereby English is the general language but speaking in one’s native language is allowed in “social space time”.


Many young people will also want to learn about the society and heritage of Ireland, and their local area in particular. In discussions with the young people, YMCA addressed issues of interest to the group, and always included an ‘Irish’ perspective in the conversation. The youth worker described that as a real learning opportunity.  The Localise Multicultural School included a module on ‘Learning about your new community’. The group did English language studies and also learned something about Irish heritage through tours to places such as Newgrange. English language support was also very important with the young people from the SPARK Project and Ninos Club (YMCA Cork). Be sure to consider English language ability of participants when planning activities. Very often English might be the second, third or even fourth language of minority ethnic young people, so give them the chance to learn and practice it as much as they can.

“There are different ethnic backgrounds, we want to recognise that and then make a meaningful integration programme. So this is what we were trying to do in the programme of the Multicultural School; we were giving the kids their own ethnic studies in separate groups, and then bringing all of them together for a Localise (Caring in the Community) programme”… “Trying to satisfy both: the integration point and the ethnic identity point”.
(Localise Development Officer)


young people having fun

VSI promote volunteerism to young people, and encouraging them to take positive action for change within society. The young people chose to get involved in a local clean-up and contacted the local tidy town group to offer their time as volunteers to clean-up a local wooded area. This contact with the local community proved to be vital in the success of the project, as the young people were praised for their work and felt a great sense of self-esteem. Additionally, the community learned a lot in meeting the young people from different cultural backgrounds. The Localise Multicultural School also gave the young people the chance to become involved in community-based work. At Christmas and at Easter they collected food and made cards for other young people in disadvantaged families in the area. In March they organised a St Patricks’ festival party for young athletes with special needs.

“One thing I’d like to say is that I never mentioned that this was an intercultural youth project to the young people. Because I realised through discussion with adults and young people that Irish people often assume  interculturalism is just about minorities and the Irish won’t come along. If you are going to have a community activity, call it a Family Fun day or whatever and you tend to have everyone there.” (Tyrrelstown youth worker)

Cultural eventsare often popular among schools and youth organisations. Cultural events are often useful to allow attendees to express their own culture and experience others. However such events often only address the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to cultural understanding, and need to be followed-up with different fora, discussions and other opportunities to interact. Cultural events can also be focused on expressing differences - not similarities - and don’t take into account mixed ethnicities and identities of young people living in Ireland. Asking a young person to constantly focus on their culture of origin, overlooks the fact that the young person may have been born in Ireland, grown up in the local community, and perhaps never even been to the country their family originally comes from. Organising a ‘family day’ or ‘food festival’ – rather than an ‘intercultural event’ -  can sometimes be more popular among Irish and minority ethnic communities as it makes everyone feel welcome and included, without constantly pointing out differences between groups.


Additional Resources/Training for planning activities: or

  • NYCI resource on activities not requiring language
  • Berry, John W (2008) ‘Globalisation and Acculturation’, available by searching on or through any internet search engine by searching for the title ‘Globalisation and Acculturation’.

How would you rate? /How is your organisation doing?

  • Does your youth organisation advertise your programme of activities in the community?  YES   NO
  • Does your youth organisation have a good range of activities, including
    • activities free of/low charge,  YES   NO
    • activities not requiring proficiency in English YES   NO
    • activities which build the skills of the young people YES   NO
    • activities which promote heritage language/culture of minority ethnic groups YES   NO
  • Does your youth organisation consult with the young people on your programme, for instance, through questionnaires, suggestion boxes and discussions? YES   NO
  • Do you have contact details of other relevant youth work organisations to refer young  people to as needed?  YES   NO

Projects featured:


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