The Oliver Murphy Youth Leadership programme has come to an end following a fantastic 10 weeks.

In a joint initiative between IWA Sport & Carlow Regional Youth Services, the aim of the course was to give participants the relevant skills necessary to become leaders in their chosen area.

The first 5 weeks of the programme was focused on adult resilience training. The Adult Resilience program is evidence-based and proven to equip participants to be the best version of themselves and reduce anxiety by equipping them with skills and tools.

Topics covered included;

· Developing awareness, feeling relaxed and being mindful and attentive. Help identify and be mindful of feelings in yourselves and others through exploration of body signals and body language. The focus is relation, mindfulness and attention training. Provide participants with a range of specific techniques that can be used to calm ourselves during crisis situations, as well as during periods of moderate, day to day stress.

· Provide skills to participants that will allow them to replace unhelpful negative thoughts with helpful positive thoughts.

· Help participants become more resilient and develop further life skills to turn challenges and adversities into opportunities for personal growth and learning. Give participants the skills to identify and develop support networks, as well as identifying people they admire and learn from. The participants learn skills to manage strong emotions in a constructive way, so that they can move forward from challenging experiences, and explore plans of action for coping with problems, difficult situations, and worries.

· Help participants to develop specific strategies and plans to implement healthy living practices in their lives.

· A review of the strategies participants covered in the programme so that when difficult situations or challenges arise now or in the future, the participants are already prepared for them and can employ a number of ways of dealing with them.

The Oliver Murphy Youth Leadership participants were the first group of young people with a physical disability in the country to have completed this training.

Week 6 of the programme saw participants complete Safeguarding 1 training. This course educates participants on the implementation of best practice in protecting the welfare of all children.

Over the remaining 4 weeks of the programme the participants went through several other topics such as adapting games, the importance of planning and organisation and handling difficult situations. Participants met with the Irish Wheelchair Association Advocacy team who came in and spoke to the group about advocacy within IWA and what it means to be an advocate. They also met with Joanne Dawson from the Irish Wheelchair Association ability programme who spoke with them on the opportunities available to members who partake in that programme.

On the final week, the group went through volunteer options with IWA and Carlow Regional Youth Services and had Nicky Hamill (Director of Sport, IWA) and Kathryn Wall (Director of Carlow Regional Youth Services) in to speak with them on that.

On the final night, a graduation ceremony took place with the group. In attendance were Oliver Murphy himself, Rosemary Keogh (CEO, IWA), Nicky Hamill (Director of Sport, IWA), Tom Doherty (Chairman, IWA Sport) Joanne Wall Foley (IWA Sport), Kelly McGrory (IWA Sport), Shannon Pollock (IWA Sport), Kathryn Wall (Director of Carlow Regional Youth Services) Siobhan Dwyer (Senior Youth Worker Carlow Regional Youth Services) and Kathleen O’Neill (Board member Carlow Regional Youth Services).

The participants spoke about their own experience on the programme and what impact it had on them. One of those was Shannon O’ Farrell Molloy:

I became a member of the Irish Wheelchair Association when I was 18. It has been through them that I have got the opportunity to take part in wheelchair sports, courses and so much more. The Dr Oliver murphy youth leadership award. What a programme!! To be offered to do the programme was just an honour as it was the first time this particular programme was done with people with disabilities. The last 10 week have been truly amazing I have met amazing people. so motivated and positive. The Oliver murphy youth leadership award teaches you how to become a great leader and what it takes to be a great leader. Sometimes in order to be a great leader you need simple skills like how to turn a negative situation into a positive situation, how to talk to a child when they’re upset and so much more the list of skills I have learnt are endless. We also chatted about disabilities and how important it is to mix in a mainstream environment, disability should be a positive thing and not a negative. After completing the Oliver murphy youth leadership award, I now have some knowledge to hopefully make a difference in the lives of others. If I can make half the impact Joanne, Kelly, Shannon and Siobhan made on me I will count myself the luckiest girl in the world. While I am upset that the 10 weeks have come to an end really it’s the beginning of something beautiful. Thanks to the Irish Wheelchair Association & Carlow Regional Youth Service

Due to the restrictions around indoor gatherings, the programme took place online. The group are looking forward to meeting up in person when it’s safe to do so and receive their certs for the programme!