A local youth project is celebrating an exciting new phase in its work as part of the Bangor Cares Week initiative which is taking place around the town this week.

The Youth Engagement Service (YES) is run by leading social justice charity Extern, and is funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA). Based at North Down YMCA on High Street, the project has helped thousands of young people since it first opened its doors in June 2016.

Dozens of young people gathered at the project today (Monday, September 23rd) to mark its formal renaming from its previous title of Bangor One Stop Shop to Bangor YES. Among the invited guests to attend this afternoon were the Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Bill Keery, as well as local councillors, representatives from the PHA and the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, and young people from across the Borough.

Guests were given a tour of the project’s facilities and heard at first hand from young people how the project has helped them with a variety of health and wellbeing issues. Presentations and a musical performance were also arranged by young service users from the project, which works with over 3,000 young people per year. The event is being run in conjunction with Bangor Cares, a locally-based grass roots movement which aims to raise awareness of mental health challenges and create a culture of caring for one another.

YES is one of two such initiatives run by Extern, with another currently provided at the Pieces Project in Queen Street, Belfast. Both projects offer a safe social space for young people aged 11-25. The young people can avail of advice, education, information and support on any well-being and youth related issue.

Extern CEO Charlie Mack said: “Our Youth Engagement Services are a fantastic and much valued resource for young people who need anything from support on issues such as mental and emotional health, training and employment, developing life skills and physical wellbeing to simply having a safe, neutral space where they can spend time with friends and take time out from their daily challenges. Our dedicated and professional team will always take time out to offer support and a listening ear to anyone, and with the support of the Public Health Agency we are delighted to welcome this new phase in the project’s future as it is officially renamed.”

Mayor of Ards and North Down Alderman Bill Keery said: “It has been my great pleasure to visit Bangor YES today and hear more about the work being done locally from the very people who are benefitting most from it – the young people themselves.  I am proud that such an innovative and effective support service is available here in Bangor and wish all those involved well as they continue to engage with, and support, our young people.”   

Michael Owen, the PHA’s drug and alcohol lead, said: “Young people can experience a wide range of pressures in their lives and the Youth Engagement Services act as a hub, where young people have opportunities to socialise in an alcohol and drug-free environment and have access to information, advice and support of the excellent YES staff.”

For further details on the YES project please log onto Extern’s dedicated webpage at www.extern.org/youth-engagement-service-yes, tel. 07436 808 425 or email: [email protected]. The YES project also has a dedicated Facebook page, search for ‘Bangor YES’.