At CATALYST we love to celebrate others as they take risks in serving others. We love the heart behind PROUD & ahead of their launch at this weekend’s festival, we asked Megan to share her heart behind the initiative.
I love East Belfast, I’ve lived here my whole life. I love how it’s developing and changing, and while the newest cafes and restaurants are great , most of all, I love the people who live here and I love their stories. I love how the lady in my street is always giving me gardening advice, I love that the man is the post office who always tells me off for my hand writing and I love the young people who’ll remind me my trainers aren’t as cool as theirs.
There is such diversity here but there is always warmth. East Belfast is a community where people look out for each other. We have each other’s backs.
However East Belfast has it’s challenges too and over the last couple of years my heart has been breaking at how far removed some peoples lives are from how they were intended to be lived. Unemployment, lack of motivation, low self esteem and zero confidence are major daily struggles for so many of our young adults in East Belfast. Many have grown up in chaotic families, they know chronic substance misuse, violence, poverty and paramilitary activity as part of daily life. Yet, amidst it this, I see young adults who still dare to hope, to dream, to innovate even when it seems like nothing can change. Even when it seems like the cycle can’t be broken.
As a counsellor we talk about noticing our feelings and examining how our frustrations stir us into action, for me this frustration and wasted potential drove me to the point where I couldn’t stand back and do nothing anymore. I was too proud.
Six months ago, with absolutely no business experience I was sitting with my husband in a café in Dublin feeling so disillusioned by the constant spiral of discontent in so many of our young people’s lives, we had had enough. Both of us, fuelled by our passion to see change and transformation decided its time to start something new that creates options for change for the young adults in East Belfast.
We are Proud.
We are proud of East Belfast.
We are proud of our local young adults.
We are proud of who they are and where they are at but we want more for them. We want them to have increased opportunities to enhance their skills and to grow in confidence and in understanding of their potential and what they can achieve. And out of this Proud was created. Proud is a social enterprise start up, currently selling ice cream and aiming to offer employment to young adults resulting in a history of employment and a paid reference as a platform to access further opportunities. All profit made goes directly into supporting young adults in their local communities. Alongside their employment young adults will be offered a goal focused personal development plan and individualised support to address the challenges that have been holding them back.
For we believe that these young adults have been created for divine purposes, that they have huge value, that Jesus has hopes and dreams for them far bigger than they dare imagine. I believe he can transform even the most hopeless of situations, that he brings good out of struggle.
We listened to a sermon together a few years back that said, ‘Discouragement surrounds growth’ and it’s a line that’s stayed with us. The past six months haven’t been easy, the struggle to create something from nothing has been so real for us and has required confidence to step out into situations very new and at times very uncomfortable. There have been days of knocked confidence, of major discouragement and of doubt and fear. But there is always growth. Now on the discouraging days, we ask ourselves what God is doing, what were about to see change.
Making Proud a reality had required commitment with our time, finances and even our pride. Every day has brought so much learning, each challenge has lead to more new skills and with each terrifying new decision or conversation we have been more amazed by the freedom and confidence God has granted us to keep stepping into each new part of the unfolding path.
Proud will be launching at CATALYST this year, look our for us and our ice cream bicycle! This whole venture is so new to us and brings with it many challenges but as a close friend recently reminded me, ‘If it’s not uncomfortable you probably aren’t growing’. We know our God is a God of change, of inspiring hope in adversity and of celebrating growth. With this knowledge at Proud we want to do all we can with what we have to support and celebrate other young adults and be a part of the positive change in our community.