Emeka Iroaganachi, 19, is president of the Longford Multicultural Youth Group and he and his friends spent a year organising for one event in particular.
"When I originally joined the group," he tells us, "I had little interest or motivation. Then last year, I visited Belgium and saw what youth groups there were able to do, the cooperation between different nationalities. It motivated me to go out and do something, get something off the ground."
Cultural Diversity Day on August 13th was one of the biggest events they committed to organising.
“From when we first started planning it until it took place, the whole process took about a year. It was hard to convince people and explain the benefits to them, but we managed to get sponsors such as Eircom on board and Longford County Council and Longford Community Resouces helped.
“Other things, on the organisational end, that had to be sorted as the day approached, was getting the lighting correct and the setting of the sound system, and many other things.”
The effort paid off, and the response to the event was as good as they could possibly have imagined.
|Young people pose at Longford's Diversity Day, August 13th|
“It developed slowly, but by the end of the day, the place was packed out. People definitely benefitted from the interaction and gained a different understanding.
“Personally speaking, I gained a lot of self-confidence from the experience. In many Asian and African counties, there is almost too much respect for elders, and children aren't listened to.
Many of them are scared to stand up for themselves. It is important that they are given confidence, something to look up to. The need to be given a voice, and for that to happen you have to go out and do things yourself," he said.
One of the obstacles for a group such as Emeka’s is keeping it up and running. "We need more funding." he says, "A lot of the time we rely on our parents to keep the group going." The group meets every Sunday at the Attic Youth Cafe in the Temporance Hall, Longford Town.
Longford wins ‘Top Teens’ award
Longford’s youth groups have also made waves nationally, with one taking the top prize at the Foróige Youth Citizenship Awards in November.
The Attic Youth Café established in Longford town in 2006 won thanks to their introduction of a new student discount card.
The awards show was presented as ‘Ireland’s Top Teens’ on TV3. It was the second time in three years that the Attic Youth Café won a national award; the previous one was for promoting active citizenship.