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The term ‘rural’ is defined as an area that has a population of 5000 people or less. There are many problems facing rural areas in today’s world. These problems include: Depopulation, where more people are actually moving out leaving the area with even fewer people. The migration of young people, which can leave the area in question with an ageing population which can in fact harm the area because the area can deteriorate without the input of new generations. In many rural areas, there is a very high dependence of agriculture.
Most of the inhabitants depend on farms as their main source of income and this can also be attributed to the low level of basic and manufacturing industry. Finally, a very important problem facing rural communities is the lack of investment being put into these areas. Without investment many farms and businesses can die and this would leave the town or community in an even worse state. You might think that these problems are irrelevant to young people but it is these areas that the rural young people are being brought up in.
It is these areas that these young people expect to live and spend the rest of their lives in many cases. And if their local community is facing ruin and in trouble then it can only have a negative effect on them, as both people and young people. “Young people need self esteem, a sense of belonging to something. They need a role, to be able to make a contribution to their community. ” (A Sense of Belonging 1997) The problems facing some rural young people have placed a greater emphasis on actually working with them.
A way in which work can be done to a more valuable extent is through community development. Community development is a political process that seeks social change and redistribution of power to a community level from a central level through measures such as collective action. (DHSS 1996) There are many aspects to community development, however, they are not all the same. There are very general aspects such as consciousness raising, participation, and capacity building to name a few.
There are also more specific community orientated aspects such as community education and community action. Community development can be defined as a way or working which is informed by certain principles which seek to encourage communities to tackle their problems themselves which they face in their area. It consists of a set of methods which can increase the capacity for social change, and approaches such as advocacy, consultation and relationships with local groups.
Community development is “a process which embraces community action, community service, community work and other community endeavour, whether geographical or issue based, with a bias towards the disadvantaged, impoverished and powerless in society. ” (Community Development Review Group, 1991) According to DANI (1994), rural regeneration is firmly built on community development and its principles. A key focus of the research is the relationship young people have with the processes that occur during community development and regeneration programmes.
Some of the main principles of community development are collective activity, participation, partnership and capacity building. These principles are used in order to ensure that all of the members of the community work together in the planning and decision making processes, which in turn will raise the opportunity of each members full potential being realised. There are many knock on effects of community development in rural areas in relation to young people. Community development can lay the foundations for economic development. If the community is developing then the expectations of the community will be raised.
This can be filtered down to the young people, who in turn get a grasp of this optimism and therefore their work can be greater. They can develop their ideas and skills before taking on new ideas. As a group, the young people get the short straw in a community. They have relatively little power. I know this because I am a young person. Young people are often stereotyped as the trouble makers in the community. Therefore, they are not given any independence, any say in what happens in the community and also a lack of opportunities. However, this lack of power is far greater in a rural area.
As rural communities tend to be much more close-knit, this lack of power is easier to see and therefore more likely to provoke a reaction from some of the young people. Their participation in the community can be harmed because of this exclusion and could therefore lead to the young people not having a positive sense of identity in their local vicinity. From a young persons perspective, I know how strong the need for importance is, the need to know that you have a say and the need that you are counted as an equal member of a community is. And if these needs aren’t met then the effects are only going to be negative.
The term young people is very general. The lack of power that young people have or don’t have can be further increased. This is through divisions in the young people themselves. There are many issues that can determine the participation by a young person. These issues include gender, disabilities and religion. These issues can emphasise the powerlessness of the young people in a rural community. An example of this can be a community which has a greater population of females, however, a greater percentage of the power goes to the males in the community. This is not healthy.
It can only make the community go backwards. It can have an adverse effect on both parties. The females because they are not being listened to and they are powerless in their community. But it can also affect the males because they might feel that they are under too much pressure and that they are given more power because of their masculinity. They may therefore refrain from participating in other activities in order to protect their identity and status within that community. From the research shown in (A Sense of Belonging 1997), it is clear to see that there are many main stakeholders in the local communities.
These include: The Church The adults The police The paramilitaries These four stakeholders bring forward many positive and negative aspects towards the local communities in rural areas. The church has given neither Catholics nor Protestants any real knowledge about their lives. Most feel that the Church is outdated and they feel that it has little relevance to their present lives. Some young people actually think that it causes divisions and conflict within communities. The young people cannot relate to the Church teachings and this can be influencing the decline of organised religion.
However, there are some young people who feel that the Church isn’t given enough credit for the work that they do in the local communities. Ecumenical events such as carol services and fund-raising activities can give the young people in rural communities a sense of belonging and purpose. The young people are also aware that it is the clergy who have the most access to youth resources such as halls and schools etc. They also acknowledge the fact that the Church is one of the main bodies actually providing youth groups and facilities in the form of scouts and GB etc.
As adults are seen by young people in the community as the ones with the most power, they have a considerable amount of control. They are often seen as being out of touch with the young people of today and this can be summed up in one simple phrase, “when I was your age… ” This in turn reminds me of the old saying that the oppressed become the oppressors. The young people can do relatively little without the consent of an adult, and their actions are under much greater scrutiny compared to those of significant social standing in the community.
However, adults also have to be seen as the young people of the past. They were once like the young people of today. They too felt powerless, trapped and oppressed but now that they are older they can seethe relevance of it. The adults are seen as role models for the young people, and important role models they are. It’s up to the young people to interpret this as positive or negative. However, the young people usually realise that it is the adults that lead and facilitate the youth groups and they respect them for that. They appreciate the time and energy put in by the adults in leisure activities etc.
A factor that may drive the young people on is the fact that they are where they are because of the efforts of the adults of the previous generation. This can help them gain a sense of perspective and appreciate and respect the adults. The police are generally not welcome in the rural areas researched. Young people from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds share a dislike of the police. Some of this dislike comes from the perceived political and religious differences of the young people. There is no way that the police are accepted as part of the community, although they have to be tolerated.
Because young people are aware that the police force has a higher percentage of Protestants, they feel that there may be pressure from their colleagues to behave in a biased fashion. “It depends what side you’re on” (Paul, aged 17) (A Sense of Belonging 1997) Paramilitary influence is looked upon by the young people, regardless of gender or age, as being virtually non-existent in the areas researched. They are seen to be more connected to more urban areas and/or the drug scene. In areas where paramilitary activity may be considered ‘legitimate’ by some, it is not sanctioned by the rest of the community.
Because the rural towns are so close-knit, any paramilitary activity by a member would be recognised and found out. A key stakeholder which has a different type of influence on the young people in rural communities is Youth Action Northern Ireland. Youth Action NI recognise the achievements of the young people by presenting them with ‘Youth Achievement Awards’. These awards were developed to recognise and accredit young people’s achievements through their normal participation in youth work. The awards scheme actively engages the young people’s decision making and it succeeds in giving them ownership in their personal development.
Youth Action NI focus on working with urban and rural young people between the ages of 10 and 25, particularly targeting the older age range of 14 to 25. They work in partnership with transnational organisations to share practice and provide international opportunities for the young people. During the last fifteen to twenty years there has been a significant growth in the number of community development groups in rural areas. In 1990 a Rural Development Group was drawn up with the Department of Agriculture.
A Rural Development Division was then established to ‘actively promote development by providing a coordinated integrated statutory financial response to projects generated at a community level. ” (A Sense of Belonging 1997) This integrated programme created a Rural Development Council (RDC). The Rural Development Council attempted a holistic approach to rural regeneration. The youth service policy is largely based on the concept of vertical development. It focuses on the developmental needs of a client group and developing practice based around personal and social development.