As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued and young people have remained in various forms of lockdown and isolation, it has become increasingly difficult for them to socialise outside of their immediate family. Although school and the ability to meet with small groups outside have sometimes helped alleviate this, the latest period of school closures and lockdown restrictions has seriously impacted how young people socialise and make new friendships. 

This has been highlighted not only by our staff, but also by young people taking part in our programmes. At a recent meeting of the Bytes Youth Board, participants expressed a desire for more activities that involved interaction with young people outside of their specific group. Lockdown and home schooling have isolated young people, and participants wanted to know 'what other people like us are doing'. While face-to-face meet ups and group days out are a part of many Bytes programmes, aiming to encourage new friendships between young people from different areas, it has obviously been impossible for these to take place for some time.

To try and combat this, staff organised an online meet up and activity session via Zoom, open to all young people on the Antrim & Newtownabbey Peace Bytes programme.

There was a great mix of young people from different areas & backgrounds, and they all got involved in activities including an alphabet treasure hunt, zombie dress up and scavenger hunt. There were a series of small prizes - in the form of gift vouchers - for the winners of each challenge and Bytes staff took part in all activities as well.

Some of the participants of today's session, in the middle of the zombie dress up challenge!

Afterwards, young people who participated described the event as 'very fun & energetic loved it!', 'a good laugh' and 'Brilliant craic'. Thanks to everyone to took part and congratulations to the winners of the gift vouchers - Giuila, Leia, Lewis, Keely! Hopefully we'll soon be repeating the success of this event with others for different projects and areas.