Alex Duffy is a Youth Worker on the highly successful Peace Bytes programme, and has been with us since the programme started in 2018. We asked him about his recent experiences supporting young people in the North West remotely during multiple lockdowns and the challenges young people are facing after almost a year of disrupted life. 

Q. For you, what has it been like to live and work through the last few months while our offices have been closed and most work has been done remotely?

At the start of the pandemic, when we made the decision for staff to work from home, I found it difficult to adjust and get motivated. It took a few weeks to adapt, but after I created a space at home where I could work comfortably, it was great! Technology has aided us in achieving remote working, and as a tech nerd this was right up my street.

Q. What have young people been struggling with during lockdown and having to home school?

Not seeing their friends has been a big issue for young people. They are missing the social aspect of school and the support of their peers and teachers. The unpredictability of when this will all end has played a detrimental role on young people's wellbeing, firstly in school and then out of school, lockdown and then no lockdown.

Q. Is there anything that has surprised you in particular about how young people have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns so far?

How have they responded to a second lockdown this year? Every new Zoom group starts the same, with young people being very shy, so it's a lot of awkward silence and no cameras turned on. The young people must suffer me rambling! It takes a few weeks to build relationships & trust and slowly they start speaking to each other and then the cameras are switched on and we all have great craic together.

Q. What long term support do you think young people need as part of the ‘recovery’ from the lockdown period and isolation?

I believe that as Youth Workers, we will mainly be dealing with the aftermath of this pandemic in terms of young people’s mental wellbeing and social skills. We need to be there for them emotionally as we build trust, and they know they can speak to us and not be judged. The pandemic may soon be gone, but lasting issues around social isolation and mental health will remain.

Q. As we go start 2021, what are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

Building relationships with our young people, supporting them while also coming up with new and exciting ways to engage with groups using creative media and technology.