On scenic tranquil shores, not far from Belleek a charity-run youth organisation is dedicated to building young people up when their experiences in life have torn them down.
Roscor Youth Village has been working under the radar for over two decades offering children and young people the opportunity to escape the daily challenges they face, discover new talents and skills and return to their lives, refreshed and renewed.
“Childhood is such a short period in anyone’s life,” says Programme Manager, Mark Rogers, “We want to give them as many experiences as possible.”
Roscor celebrated it’s 21st birthday last week – a milestone which Mark feels immensely proud of.
He has been there right from the very start, when the organisation, run by Extern, uprooted from its original location at Killadeas and settled into its new surroundings at Roscor in 1997.
Since then it has been changing the lives of thousands of children from across Ireland every year.
The site has been developed beyond recognition over the last 21 years, but according to Mark the organisation has reached another turning point in its history.
“We outgrew the place at Killadeas and now we are outgrowing this place,” he says.
Determined to future-proof Roscor for the generations of young people to come, Extern is launching a £1.2 million campaign that involves a “reimagination of the site” to “make it the best that it can be”.
According to Mark the move has been a long time coming.
“It needs to change,” he says, “To meet the growing needs that we have. The volume of young people coming to the attention of social services is increasing all the time. We need to have the appropriate responses in place to deal with that.”
From the beginning Roscor has prided itself of providing a safe haven for children and young people to come “and just be kids again”.
“It is emotionally safe and physically safe,” Mark says.
“We offer a chance for them to step away from the worries in their lives, take time out and we engage with them, guide them, offer good, positive relationships.”
Roscor has helped over 40,000 children from all over Ireland and Programme Manager, Mark, feels a protective responsibility to each and every one of them.
“That is 40,000 lives changed,” he says, “I have had a chance to work with really amazing kids - all of them are fantastic, and protecting them is always at the forefront of my mind.
“If they have a particular skill, we will take that particular skill and polish it.
“If they are jumping into the water, we are jumping in with them.”
A wide range of outdoor and indoor activities are available at the site, from canoeing to cooking, surfing to hairdressing, cliff jumping to music and drama and all that is in between.
But the challenge now, will be how to develop on the astounding work already achieved to ensure its future for the next century.
“The current buildings for accommodation are small,” says Mark, “Our idea is to reimagine them and bring to medium sized family units. It would create better opportunities to work with whole families.”
Besides its residentials and summer camps, Roscor provides emergency respite when home life is in crisis.
Holiday provision is one of the huge projects on offer at Roscor.
“For many of the young people coming here, this is the only holiday they would get,” says Mark, “My idea is that through Roscor, they have stories to tell when they return to school in September.
“It is all about filling the memory banks.”
Roscor focuses too, on the idea of ‘holiday hunger’.
“Low income families may be eligible for free school meals during term time, but what happens when school breaks up for summer?” he says.
Since 1997 Roscor has provided over 365,000 hot meals for young people. Almost 3,000 young people shelter at Roscor annually and in 2017, the Youth Village facilitated 5,711 nights of safe sleep.
Over the years many of the young people who have come through Roscor have returned, either in a volunteering capacity or as employees.
Now the focus has shifted to the £1.2 million campaign.
“Roscor is my baby. The baby has come of age now an like any parent I am proud of what it has achieved and I want it to keep on doing that.”