Quick menu:

This site is showing content relating to all UK countries. Change this using the country filters below or select Ok to accept. This site uses cookies.

  • Help and support

Meet our young people

  • Print

Ten young people from across Northern Ireland are making a difference to how we run our Empowering Young People programme. Find out more about their own stories and why they want to help other young people.


Samantha Selfridge

I’m Samantha and I’m 21 years old and from east Belfast. I got involved with the Empowering Young People Group as I thought I could use my own experiences to help others.

I have Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder and always struggled at school. I found it difficult to concentrate and most people didn’t understand. I didn’t have the confidence to ask for extra help so my memories of school are of feeling sad and frustrated. I also found it hard to find a job.

Getting involved with a local charity helped me understand my condition and gave me confidence. I work in a charity shop now and I’m more confident in public speaking.

Being selected for the Empowering Young People Group has boosted my self-esteem. I now feel that I have a lot of opportunities open to me and that I can make a difference.


Ronan McKernan

I’m Ronan and I’m 17 and from Belfast. I’m really pleased to be a member of the Empowering Young People Group as I’m helping to make decisions on groups who receive funding by sharing my own experiences of having a learning disability.

I have dyslexia but being properly supported in school has given me the confidence to start my own production company.

If you have the correct mind-set, really believe in what you want to do, and will do whatever it takes to get there, then you can achieve your goals.

I’m really pleased to be part of the Empowering Young People Group. I want to share the skills I already have and learn as much as possible while in the role. And I want other young people to know that having a learning disability doesn’t mean that you can’t realise your dreams.


Tanya McCallen

My name is Tanya – I’m 24, and from Carrickfergus. I spent most of my childhood in care and am delighted to be part of the Empowering Young People group as I want to help other young people who may be struggling.

I know how hard it can be to try to continue with your education and training when there are things happening in your personal and family life. Taking part in youth projects has helped me build my confidence to overcome some issues and I have been able to get employment. I’m studying nursing now and I work as an Auxiliary nurse. I feel that I know what I want to do with my life now and I know how to get there.

I want to support young people, gain more confidence and experience in decision making, and to make a difference. I understand the hardship faced by young people in care, particularly when it comes to staying in education and finding a career path. My advice for any young person is to believe in yourself that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.


Declan Campbell

I’m 20 and from Armagh and decided to get involved with the Empowering Young People Group so I could share my experiences as a young person who has a mental health condition.

I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression when I was 14 and then at the age of 16 I discovered that I had a degenerative eye condition so I’ve had a lot to cope with over the last few years. I’d like to reach out to other young people who have felt isolated and afraid, to tell them that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that you can deal with the problems and still live a good life.

I think it’s great that young people like me are getting the chance to make decisions on where the National Lottery funding is going. It’s really important that young people’s views are being taken into consideration. It feels like our views are being taken seriously and I’m very proud to be involved.

I can see the difference and improvement in me over the past year – I’m much more sociable since I’ve got involved in the Big Lottery Fund’s Empowering Young People group and have really come out of my shell. Everybody in this group has gone through some sort of challenge and has come out the other side a stronger person. I really feel that together we can make a big difference and our views will ensure that we fund some great projects with grants from the Big Lottery Fund.


Mark Wood

I’m Mark and I’m 17 and live in Lisburn. I joined the Empowering Young People Group so that I can make a difference to the lives of other young people who are going through challenges in their lives.

I was a young carer for my dad who had osteoporosis. My Mum works long hours so I looked after him on a daily basis doing things like cooking meals, cleaning and giving him medication. He passed away in July 2016.

Being a young carer had an effect on my school life and social life but I’ve still been able to dedicate time to my passions. I love acting and I’m a member of a youth theatre group. I want to use my experiences to show other young people that they aren’t alone in their struggles and show that there is funding out there for groups to help young people.


Joe Forbes

I’m Joe and I’m 21 and from Belfast. I wanted to be part of the Empowering Young People Group so I could show other young people with disabilities that they can have the same opportunities as everyone else if they put they their minds to it.

I was working as a chef a few years ago when I had a fall which led to me being in a wheelchair. I have functional neurological disorder, which brings on seizures and sometimes it’s hard to leave the house.

But I haven’t let my disability hold me back. It motivated me to rethink my life and look at what opportunities there are for young people, with and without disabilities. I volunteer at local youth clubs and I want to help other young people improve their skills and learning and not feel restricted because of their circumstances.

I’m excited to be involved with Empowering Young People and having the opportunity to gain more experience and influence other young people in a positive way.


Abigail TelfordAbigail Telford

“I’m 20 and from Portadown and I got involved in the Empowering Young People group as I want to help other young people, so that regardless of their personal disadvantages or hurdles, they don't have to be alone or without help.

“I've struggled with depression since I was 13 and was referred to mental health services. I endured social anxiety throughout my school life and it was a while before I took the first steps to fight depression. It’s an ongoing battle, but I’ve been learning to take risks and try new things, and to try to accept myself in a positive way. I’m now employed in a work placement with a community organisation.

“I want to see projects funded by Big Lottery Fund that give young people the ability to take control of their lives and change things for the better.”


Fiona DonnellyFiona Donnelly

“I’m 23 and from Belfast and joined the Empowering Young People group as I want to see support available for young people who need it.

“When I was seven my mum had cancer, although I didn't understand a lot about it at that time. When I was 15, my mum's cancer came back. I wasn't told the exact nature of her illness and she passed away within a few months. We were very close, so this was such a shock and obviously very hard on me. I also was in my fourth year at school and studying for GCSE exams.

“The trauma of losing my mum made it difficult to cope with the pressure of school and impacted on my mental health. It resulted in anxiety problems which I have been dealing with throughout my time at university. But this has become easier to deal with after I sought help.

“I want to use my experiences to help others as I understand how loss affects a young person and the type of support needed.”


Anita DennisonAnita Dennison, 21, Newry

“I’m 21 and from Newry and joined the Empowering Young People group because I believe in taking action to make the future of young people better.

“I was bullied from the age of 11- 17, and it included being subjected to a hate campaign on social media. This had a big impact on me, lowering my self-confidence and led me to isolate myself from friends, loved ones and things I once enjoyed taking part in. I got involved with the Fixers project and have created various social media campaigns to support young people and their families and help them get through the experience of being bullied.

“I want to help fund projects that will give young people the confidence to take a lead role in making a difference.”


Niamh McCulloughNiamh McCullough

“I’m Niamh and I’m 17 and from Belfast. I joined the Empowering Young People group as I want to help create opportunities for young people to do things to improve their lives and where they live.

“Young people need a place to go where they can take part in things that will make their lives better. If there’s nowhere for them to go they can end up just hanging around streets, maybe taking drugs or annoying local residents. Young people like me need an opportunity to talk about their problems and socialise in a safe environment. I believe young people have a lot to offer all communities. I enjoy helping out at community events and in the youth club.