YFCU clubs all over Northern Ireland are continuing to take up The Grassroots Challenge – an exciting youth empowerment initiative which is led by Ulster Wildlife and provides young people with the skills, knowledge and confidence to give nature a helping hand in their local communities, through the delivery of “wild idea” projects.
Ulster Wildlife’s YFCU project officers Shona and Andrew gave a report of all the clubs that they have visited over the last few months.
Andrew went to give an introduction to the Grassroots Challenge and ran through some wild ideas that would interest the club. The club has decided to do a wild ideas project in April when we can make the most out of the long evenings.
Following an interesting talk from David Oliver about the benefits of YFCU membership, Shona introduced the Grassroots Challenge and discussed how beneficial taking part in a wild ideas project could be through helping the environment, the local community and themselves by gaining new skills. The members took part in a brain storming session on wild ideas that they would like to complete in the future, with some members very keen to take up the challenge.
Shona visited Kilraughts YFC to help out during their home management night. After a short presentation about the Grassroots Challenge, it was time to get stuck into making recycled material bird feeders. Shona was able to give tips and ideas and provided some tasty bird favourites such as peanut butter, lard and Cheerios.
Following on from a successful beach clean, Mourne YFC decided to undertake a second wild idea with the Grassroots Challenge. The club made red squirrel feeders and donated some of these to Red Squirrels United which is an Ulster Wildlife project aimed at preventing these amazing little creatures from becoming extinct in Ulster. The club heard from the project officers and were very interested; so much so that two of the members brought the feeders home so that they could see if there are red squirrels in their area. The rest of the boxes have been placed around Kilbroney Forest Park to entice these timid creatures into public view. The members also put their names and club name on the boxes so if you do get a chance to stroll around Kilbroney keep an eye out for Mourne YFC’s handiwork and feel free to take a snap and tag the club.
City of Derry YFC
City of Derry YFC welcomed the Grassroots Challenge to their club night to learn more about the partnership and got thinking about future wild ideas projects they could complete. They spent the evening building bird boxes and even made some bird feeders using recycled pallet wood. There was great participation throughout the club and members developed team building skills by working together in groups to build the bird houses. Overall a great night was had by all with members enjoying getting hands on with the tools and the club is already planning their second project.
Cappagh YFC has undertaken their first wild ideas project; they made some great bird boxes as part of Ulster Wildlife’s Grassroots Challenge. They were also given a full run down of the Grassroots Challenge by Andrew and what to expect from it for now and going into 2017. All the members had a fantastic night with great positivity and all were looking forward to getting their bird boxes put up.
Castlecaufield YFC had a great brain storming session about a future wild ideas project they would like to complete. The small groups discussed what they would like to do, where in their local community they could complete the project and if there were any other groups that could get involved. It was identified that Castlecaufield Horticultural Society is very active and so there is scope to work together with them in any future activities. The members then got stuck into building bird boxes on the night and enjoyed using the tools such as the hammer and staple gun.
It was a very exciting night for Donaghadee YFC as they welcomed a very special guest: Sasta – a Nathusius Pipistrelle bat. Robin Moffat, a bat expert, who works with the Northern Ireland Bat Conservation Group is a licensed bat handler and looks after injured bats until they can be rehabilitated and hopefully released back into the wild. She gave a very informative and interesting talk on bats and their importance, habitats and life cycles. She was able to hold Sasta and let everyone see her up close. I think all members were shocked at how small and fluffy she was! Once Sasta was safely back in her box and in the car, Donaghadee YFC members then set about building their own bat boxes. The club finished the night off by making some chocolate marshmallow bats. Jane Kilpatrick, club leader, said: “Our members loved learning so much about bats and enjoyed picking up tools to make our own bat boxes. It’s nice to know that we’ve done something to help protect the future of our local bats.”
Collone YFC had their first Ulster Wildlife Grassroots Challenge night on the 14 November where they made bird boxes which again was a huge success with the club. They also held a quiz and threw about some ideas of what Collone YFC could do in the future – so watch this space.
Moneymore YFC and Ahoghill YFC exchange night
Moneymore YFC took part in a Grassroots Challenge wild ideas project for their exchange night with Ahoghill YFC. The theme of their project was mini beasts. Members heard an overview of the project and a presentation on what exactly mini beasts are and why they are so important to our everyday lives. The two clubs mixed together to form small groups were they battled it out for Haribo and had their environmental knowledge tested in a game of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The groups then got stuck into building group bug chalets and individual bug boxes which were filled with hay, bamboo shoots, and pine cones giving plenty of space for mini beasts to hide once placed outside. All of the bug chalets and boxes were taken home and members can’t wait to see what creatures make them their home over the winter months.
The first Fermanagh club to complete a wild idea was Lisbellaw YFC. They undertook a red squirrel feeder project to benefit the local red squirrel population and a community engagement officer from Ulster Wildlife’s Red Squirrels United project came to give some facts and figures about reds, their environment and their challenges. The club took their feeders to try and attract these little characters into their gardens and farms. It is hoped that next time Grassroots Challenge visits the club will get some positive outcomes from this first wild idea.
Straid YFC welcomed Shona to give a short introductory presentation on the Grassroots Challenge and the wide variety of projects they could undertake. The members worked in small groups to brain storm projects they would like to complete and came up with great ideas such as offering to help with gardening for elderly community members to holding building workshops for everyone to attend. The club then had a fun round of Blockbusters and a great night and came away enthused about getting stuck into the challenge.
Find out more at www.ulsterwildlife.org/grassroots.