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Working Towards Inclusion
Start date: Aug 1, 2015, End date: Nov 30, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Cork Simon Community works with those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the Cork region. The people we work with have many complex needs including addiction issues and mental and physical health issues. Cork Simon was founded in 1971 by volunteers and Voluntarism has remained at the heart of what we do and indeed is one of our core values. Our commitment to the volunteer experience led us to develop our project with the aim of engaging young people with regards to the issue of homelessness and the various topics that surround it. We value the enthusiasm of the young people that come to us through this project and the experience and background that they bring. Our volunteers work in an empowering way with our residents and service users to aid staff in giving them the care and support that they need. Central to this is the building of positive relationships with our residents and this is a key part of the work that our participants do. The purpose of this project is to foster an understanding of Inclusion as related to homelessness. Our project hopes to instil in our volunteers a passion for, and understanding of, social justice and inclusion through non-formal learning methods and intercultural learning. Our participants will get hands-on experience of working in an empowering way with our residents. Our 5 EVS participants work across our 5 residential houses and carry out a range of tasks from practical things like helping with cooking and cleaning to spending time doing activities with our residents and developing activities and projects based on their own skills and interests. Our volunteers undergo a high level of personal development during their time with us and they are supported through this through regular supervision, monthly mentoring sessions and training. At all times the emphasis is on reflective practice and volunteers are given the space to reflect on what they are learning and how it is impacting on them. The nature of the work that they do means that there is a huge emphasis on experiential learning. The volunteers also learn a huge array of skills through the various trainings that they attend during their time with us. From our experience of working with volunteers we have seen the impact the project has on them. The level of personal development and learning that they go through is something that they will take with them throughout their life. From their completed Youthpass, exit interviews and communication with them once they have returned we have learned the enormous impact that our project has had on people with past volunteers reporting that it had changed their view of homeless people and their attitudes towards topics such as social justice, addiction and mental health. Volunteers also reported that they felt that the skills they have learned will enhance their employability in whichever sector they chose to work in. A high number leave us to return to university where many have chosen to study a career in the Social Sector in the areas of Social Work, Psychology, Medicine, Social Policy, Politics etc. We envisage that there is huge potential impact for our project on a wider European scale as our participants carry what they have learned during their time with Cork Simon with them as they move forward with their chosen careers. The knowledge they have acquired then being passed on to family, friends, co-workers etc. We fully believe that this will lead to greater awareness of homelessness, its causes and effects, at European level. As we mentioned earlier we feel that they youth of today are the policy makers of tomorrow so the more they learn about these issues the greater the impact on future housing and social policies and ultimately the outcomes for some of society’s most vulnerable people..

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