Alliance’s Sorcha Eastwood praises ‘incredible’ work with young people after opening up on experience of domestic violence

A Lisburn and Castlereagh councillor has paid tribute to a local mentoring programme that helps support young women.

Alliance's Sorcha Eastwood

Alliance’s Sorcha Eastwood said the YMCA Y’s Girls programme in Lisburn was one of the first places across the country to be rolling it out.

The UK-wide programme matches trained volunteer mentors with young girls aged 9-14 years old to support them to be their best.

The aim of the programme is for mentors and young people to meet regularly and work together to identify achievable goals that will empower the mentee and build their resilience to enable them to lead fulfilling lives over a 12-month period.

Cllr Eastwood, who recently became an ambassador, said the programme was proving “very beneficial” to young females across Lisburn and Castlereagh.

She said: “This programme is denied especially for young girls who may be at risk, have been exposed to trauma or who are struggling a little bit with their current circumstances.

“Through the Y Girls project they will have someone work with them who will help to develop their confidence, self-belief and enable them to have a positive coping strategy.

“As much as it’s about building these girls up, it’s a preventative programme. We know how early years intervene and invest in our young people but if we also need to make that investment emotionally with our young girls.

“We need to give them good coping mechanisms, tell them about their self-worth and show them all the opportunities for them. If we do that then we hope that if they experience hard times they’ll be able to fall back on that.

“9-14-years-old is a really influential age in a young girl’s life because they’re going through a lot of changes and it’s a really important time to try and influence them in a positive way.

“I experienced domestic violence most profoundly between nine and 14-years-old and it was a really distressing and traumatic time for me and if there would have been a mentor that I could’ve spoken to then I think it would’ve made a really big difference.

“I think that’s why it’s really important to have a programme like this because we know that there will be these issues at some stage of their lives and if they have the tools to deal with those problems that will really help them.”