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  • Help and support

Meet our Young People in the Lead group

Young people from across Northern Ireland are making a difference to how we run our Empowering Young People programme. Find out more about their own stories and why they want to help other young people.
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Samantha Selfridge – Decision Maker

I’m Samantha and I’m 21 years old and from east Belfast. I got involved with the Young People in the Lead Group as I thought I could use my own experiences to help others.

I have Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder and always struggled at school. I found it difficult to concentrate and most people didn’t understand. I didn’t have the confidence to ask for extra help so my memories of school are of feeling sad and frustrated. I also found it hard to find a job.

Getting involved with a local charity helped me understand my condition and gave me confidence. I work in a charity shop now and I’m more confident in public speaking.

Being selected for the Young People in the Lead Group has boosted my self-esteem. I now feel that I have a lot of opportunities open to me and that I can make a difference.

Ronan McKernan – Decision Maker

I’m Ronan and I’m 17 and from Belfast. I’m really pleased to be a member of the Young People in the Lead Group as I’m helping to make decisions on groups who receive funding by sharing my own experiences of having a learning disability.

I have dyslexia but being properly supported in school has given me the confidence to start my own production company.

If you have the correct mind-set, really believe in what you want to do, and will do whatever it takes to get there, then you can achieve your goals.

I’m really pleased to be part of the Young People in the Lead Group. I want to share the skills I already have and learn as much as possible while in the role. And I want other young people to know that having a learning disability doesn’t mean that you can’t realise your dreams.

Tanya McCallen – Decision maker

My name is Tanya – I’m 24, and from Carrickfergus. I spent most of my childhood in care and am delighted to be part of the Young People in the Lead group as I want to help other young people who may be struggling.

I know how hard it can be to try to continue with your education and training when there are things happening in your personal and family life. Taking part in youth projects has helped me build my confidence to overcome some issues and I have been able to get employment. I’m studying nursing now and I work as an Auxiliary nurse. I feel that I know what I want to do with my life now and I know how to get there.

I want to support young people, gain more confidence and experience in decision making, and to make a difference. I understand the hardship faced by young people in care, particularly when it comes to staying in education and finding a career path. My advice for any young person is to believe in yourself that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.

Declan Campbell – Decision Maker

I’m 19 and from Armagh and decided to get involved with the Young People in the Lead Group so I could share my experiences as a young person who has a mental health condition.

I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression when I was 14 and then at the age of 16 I discovered that I had a degenerative eye condition so I’ve had a lot to cope with over the last few years. I’d like to reach out to other young people who have felt isolated and afraid, to tell them that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that you can deal with the problems and still live a good life.

I think it’s great that young people like me are getting the chance to make decisions on where the National Lottery funding is going. It’s really important that young people’s views are being taken into consideration. It feels like our views are being taken seriously and I’m very proud to be involved.

I can see the difference and improvement in me over the past year – I’m much more sociable since I’ve got involved in the Big Lottery Fund’s Young People in the Lead group and have really come out of my shell. Everybody in this group has gone through some sort of challenge and has come out the other side a stronger person. I really feel that together we can make a big difference and our views will ensure that we fund some great projects with grants from the Big Lottery Fund.

Mark Wood – Ambassador

I’m Mark and I’m 17 and live in Lisburn. I joined the Young People in the Lead Group so that I can make a difference to the lives of other young people who are going through challenges in their lives.

I was a young carer for my dad who had osteoporosis. My Mum works long hours so I looked after him on a daily basis doing things like cooking meals, cleaning and giving him medication. He passed away in July this year.

Being a young carer had an effect on my school life and social life but I’ve still been able to dedicate time to my passions. I love acting and I’m a member of a youth theatre group. I want to use my experiences to show other young people that they aren’t alone in their struggles and show that there is funding out there for groups to help young people.

Joe Forbes – Ambassador

I’m Joe and I’m 21 and from Belfast. I wanted to be part of the Young People in the Lead Group so I could show other young people with disabilities that they can have the same opportunities as everyone else if they put they their minds to it.

I was working as a chef a few years ago when I had a fall which led to me being in a wheelchair.  I have functional neurological disorder, which brings on seizures and sometimes it’s hard to leave the house.

But I haven’t let my disability hold me back. It motivated me to rethink my life and look at what opportunities there are for young people, with and without disabilities. I volunteer at local youth clubs and I want to help other young people improve their skills and learning and not feel restricted because of their circumstances.

I’m excited to be involved with Young People in the Lead and having the opportunity to gain more experience and influence other young people in a positive way.

Jeffrey Stirling – Ambassador

I’m Jeffrey and I’m 23 and from Coleraine. I got involved with the Big Lottery Fund’s Young People in the Lead group so I can share my experiences of having ADHD and hopefully help other young people with the condition.

I struggled with ADHD and there was a lack of understanding and awareness of issues effecting young people with ADHD in school and the communities. I have seen great changes in these areas and even though I’ve completed my education I still struggle with ADHD related issues. So I want to help other young people who may also be struggling as I know how they feel. I saw the opportunity to work with the Big Lottery Fund as a chance to represent the views of young people with ADHD.

I have a job and I’m a volunteer youth leader which has been great for me. I’ve learnt to be more understanding of others, be more patient and my communication skills have improved. I’m also proud to be working with the Big Lottery Fund and have made some good friends already through the group.