LEADING local charity Extern is urging the public to give young people in crisis a ‘safe haven’ from harm, with the launch of a new fundraising campaign .
The Safe Haven appeal aims to raise vital funds to support Extern’s four main respite centres for young people - Kinnahalla Youth Village, in Co Down; Roscor Youth Village, in Co Fermanagh; Savannah House in Co Kildare and the newly completed Haven facility in Co Roscommon.
The facilities offer emergency accommodation and support for young people who may be facing acute crisis in their lives. This could include children who are at risk from domestic violence or abuse, or who have nowhere to live due to a family breakdown or emergency. Together, the sites offer a total of almost 5,000 overnight stays to young people every year.
Funds raised by the appeal – which is now live at www.extern.org - will go towards equipping the sites with much-needed equipment and materials to support the young people during their stays. This will allow for life and social skills development and provide young people with opportunities for experiential learning.
Recent statistics* have shown an increase in reports of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland during the pandemic. And Extern – which supports around 2,500 people through its young people and families services every year – has said that many of the young people who currently use its facilities have been adversely affected by the lockdown over the past year.
This includes Conor (14)**, who entered into care due to family breakdown. He said: “Extern helped me settle into a new foster placement. I began to see a counsellor, and that made such a big difference to my life. I know now that the things that happened to me were not my fault.
“When life was bad and things looked hopeless, Extern helped me find a safe haven, a place where I could begin to deal with the things that were troubling me.
“Sometimes that’s all that someone like me needs – to be treated with dignity and not judged for things that we often have no control over. That’s where the Extern Safe Haven Appeal can really make a difference to the lives of children like me.”
Danny McQuillan, CEO (interim) of Extern, said: “When a crisis hits within a home it is always the children who suffer the most. Our safe havens are there to offer a place of sanctuary, support and - most importantly - safety from the problems which they may be facing in their young lives..
“The past year in particular has put an enormous strain on many families, and we have seen how this has impacted on many of the young people we have welcomed to our respite centres during this time. For a child facing this kind of crisis, something as simple as a warm bed and someone to listen to them can make an enormous difference to their sense of safety and well-being. More than that, though, we offer a friendly, non-judgmental environment where they can share their worries and simply be children again.
“Keeping our safe havens operating requires funding, however, and that is why we are urging the public to dig deep and help to support our work through their donations to this important appeal. We know that with their generous support for this campaign we can continue to offer many more nights of safety and support for those who need them the most.”
Donations to the Safe Haven appeal can be made through www.extern.org and by following @ExternCharity via social media.