AMBIT15 - Peace Walls Worker Suzanne Shares Her Thoughts

12th March 2015

SLIG's Peace Walls Programme Officer Suzanne is currently in America, as part of the AMBIT15 programme. Here are her thoughts on her first few days:

"So far the AMBIT15 programme has been amazing, and we have been to the most deprived areas of Massachusetts. On Day 1, we spent the day with two very inspiring groups of workers involved with young people who are proven to be of high risk of being involved in crime and gang activity – in many ways similar to the work undertaken by SLIG.

The first of these groups was ROCA Youth Development Centre, Chelsea, Boston. ROCA’s mission statement is to ‘disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty by helping young people transform their lives’ (check their website here They work under very difficult circumstances but are a role-model for intervention in the lives of troubled young people. Their youth workers are on the streets 24/7, engaging with gangs on a daily basis to try and get these young people off the streets. They have great organisational values and so much passion to help these young people; I found them incredibly inspiring.

The second organisation we visited on Day 1 was United Teen Equality Centre, or UTEC, Lowell. Lowell is also a very deprived area and UTEC is again an organisation that is working under difficult circumstances ( The youths involved in their programmes are from challenging backgrounds and are very much involved in gang activity. UTEC runs various programmes to engage these young people and help them to change their circumstances and future through education and training programmes.

On Day 1 we also had the opportunity to meet the Irish and British Consulate staff who discussed their roles here and how they work to assist resident Irish and British citizens. We got to hear what impact they have on foreign affairs and immigration in America.

Day 2 was spent in Lawrence, first of all at the Heritage State Park ( This was a great experience learning the history of the city and the immigration shifts over the years. Lawrence was once a very industrial city and is now very socially and economically deprived, so we got to hear how they are addressing these new challenges. . We then went on to meet children's and family services, who are working to support young people and families through providing wrap-around services. They ensure all service providers in the city are working in collaboration to provide the best way forward for these young people and families.

Later on in Day 2 we went to Phoenix Academy, which is an alternative education facility for proven high risk young people. The teachers and students talked to us about how they feel that the model used by the school works. The students were very inspiring to have come from difficult circumstances to where they are today. The staff are very much involved in these young people’s lives, providing support and ensuring they achieve an education based on their specific needs. Following this, we met with some local police and a judge with his probation officers. We got to hear about a collaborative approach between youth workers, parents and schools and law-makers; united in trying to prevent young people becoming incarcerated. Local police and judiciary are also trying to find better ways forward for these young people other than prison, which was inspiring and thought-provoking. A jam-packed Day 2 was completed with a Mexican buffet in a community based cafe in Lawrence.

Day 3 was spent at Boston Police Department talking to the gang team, the community police and school unit as well as their leadership. Their model for intervention is very exciting and is working well for them and the communities they serve. We then went on to meet the Committee for Public Counsel – a group of attorneys who work on behalf of local young people and provide a wide range of support for the youth they represent. They do amazing work in partnership with social workers as well as providing aftercare support to the families they are involved with.
We finished Day 3 with a meeting with the amazing and busy people at Health Resource in Action – as well as providing support to young people, they also provide training to the youth workers and to young people with little educational attainment. The group has successfully developed a curriculum and training for youth and street workers here, as there is very little training and support for the youth workers who work in these difficult areas."

For more information, simply contact:

Suzanne Lavery
Tel: 028 9062 9146

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