The following is a letter from Shankill Stress and Trauma Group in Belfast summarizing their program and funding request.
We are a trauma centre set up in Unionist west Belfast for all direct victims of the conflict. We were formed by victims who knew that statutory systems did not work and was the first of its kind in 1987. We sold cars, or anything we had, to buy our first premises, a portakabin. From six people we now have a usage of 198 persons per week, with ages ranging between 6-87 years.
We initially dealt with our trauma by sharing our stories, dealing with immediate needs, counselling and self help. Realizing this conflict did not begin in 1969 we started Irish history classes to enable us to "walk in our brothers shoes". Creativity, knowing through exploration who we were and in sure certainty, by this stage, that there was more to unite than divide us, as a whole community. No one had a monopoly on suffering, poverty, educational needs, as well as unfair and unjust systems and everyone was guilty of intolerance.
The last group of people we could accommodate, only after acquiring adequate premises, were our youth members. All through this conflict they did not have a voice and even when they did speak, there was no one to listen. We listened and found out the legacy we were giving them, much the same as our own, but they were more honest and open with their dislike of their legacy.
We listened to the hidden and sad facts of the conflict, sexual abuse, pressure to join paramilitaries, the drug trap, the lonely child, the woman's lot, the neglect, the list is all too familiar and sadly very long. We explored their needs to belong, to be heard and to be taken seriously. To break the hurt chain by role play, debate, knowledge and introductions to "the other side". Then, as they told us what they thought, we were already thinking of how to harness their feelings. As none will be given the opportunity to become academics (our local High School education ends when they are 16) we knew they had talents such as drama and voice and had identified their desire to be heard. We thought of a musical production, the name was obvious, "Lost Innocence."
They would write the script and enlist adults to write songs. It would be a journal of their lives, a death, a bomb incident, a community that saw guns and tanks thrust upon them, a love that was not permitted because they wer not "our sort". A cry for help, frustrations with politicians, who are at best intransigent and at worst unfeeling.
They made a strong plea, by word and song, to them all, inclusive of all those involved in their future and bar none, all replied.
Our youth leaders funding ended and two staff members currently work nights, on voluntary basis to accommodate and carry on the needy service we provide. We have been offered tutorials in drama and song, free until June 2001 and at that stage we will attempt to produce a CD recording of four songs, "West Belfast-Best Belfast", "Path of Peace", "Come Home to Belfast Town", and one further, to be decided. All of this requires practice equipment, as listed on our application. Each of our youth members contributed to the list.
In reality, we can just about get by on the items listed but the opportunities in the future would be greatly increased with any help you could provide, not only for our youth but in conjunction with other groups in the area and beyond.
Part of our aim is to create awareness to the plight of the forgotten youth of our country, we have been able to do this in the past in partnership with other statutory charitable bodies. We have had visits by prominent youth commissioners from around the world and one visit from Martin Sheene, the actor, as well as Antonio Fargus, who has promised to return.
We desperately need to build on our existing foundations, to improve the quality of life and future prospects of these children.
We submit the following list for your approval:
* 1 PA System (Fender) 1,200#
* 4 Microphones to suit above 320
* 4 Radio Microphones 600
* 20 Head Mikes (clip on) 2,000
* 1 Stereo set (to record backing tracks) 400
Total: 4,500# Approximately $6,700
We realise that this may be considered an extensive list but as we've said, the work that we are trying to do will last well into the future and benefit so many of our young people, we believe it to be a worth while cause. There are plans being drawn up for a theatrical performance in the future, which could involve groups from both communities, which would be staged at a local theatre, and these items would greatly enhance the chances of this taking place.
These young people have a need to normalise the abnormal society they live in, a trickle can soon become a stream, with a little help.
We enclose some supporting material for your approval and thank you, in advance, for your consideration.
/s/ Mina Wardle, Director