Action Deaf Youth was formerly called the Northern Ireland Deaf Youth Association – known to friends and to those in the Deaf Community as NIDYA, was set up in 1988 after a reunion of young deaf people revealed shared feelings of isolation and a need for support. The Association felt it was time for Deaf people to speak for themselves, rather than reply on hearing people to do it for them.
A committee was formed, premises found and funding was sought. The first barrier had been broken and NIDYA was born. In the same year, a report written by Dr. Susan Phoenix indicated that the needs of Deaf people went largely unrecognised by the hearing community. It also highlighted the fact that many members of the Northern Ireland Deaf Community had a poor quality of life and a poverty of expectations.
Malachy McBurney, one of the founders, led the Association during this decade, enabling NIDYA to embark on new exciting initiatives from its office base, the Wilton House in Belfast. In 1991, NIDYA reassessed its aims and objectives to focus on work with young deaf people in clubs, as this had been identified as the area of greatest unmet need. Deaf Youth Leaders broke new ground, establishing a club in Belfast for young deaf people. Club members were encouraged to participate in club administration and in decision-making. Another club, modelled on the Belfast Club was later set up in Derry in 1994 and overseen by Caroline Doherty, Youth Worker. The club catered for young people from the North West of the Province.
Throughout the years in the 1990s, NIDYA organised and ran a wide range of training courses for its members. A strong emphasis was placed on Youth Leadership training, enabling NIDYA to staff Deaf Youth Clubs and Deaf Leaders.
This reflected the vision of the Association’s founders – an organisation for young deaf people, run by young deaf people. Using deaf leaders enabled a greater understanding of the issues faced by young members as they grew up in a hearing world – it also provided these young people with positive role models.
NIDYA got involved in a number of foreign exchange trips, with visits to Germany, France, Spain, the Czech Republic and the USA, among others. The exchange trips enabled members to explore another culture, and tell people more about their culture – they also learn about the provisions for Deaf communities in other countries.
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