Atlantic Philanthropies

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Eoin Butler's Q&A

The Irish Times

9 April 2011 - Original Source

Ruairi McKiernanSpunOut.ie’s Ruairí McKiernan talks about promoting positive mental health and booking the Dalai Lama

Why did you start SpunOut.ie? It started in my bedroom in Ballyshannon, in rural south Donegal, in 2004. I’d been an activist with ambitions to change the world. But I became tired of being anti-everything. I thought, well, where does change come from? So I decided to set up an NGO (non-governmental organisation). I had noble ideas about helping people on a global scale. But that’s the great thing about being young and naive – you don’t see any of the barriers that might stand in your way.

Where does your funding come from? I originally applied for office space from local enterprise groups. But they’re all fixated on attracting multinationals. As a result SpunOut was based in Galway for eight years, before relocating to Temple Bar in Dublin this year. The HSE provides a lot of our funding. On the civic side, we get assistance from people like Atlantic Philanthropies.

What does the site do? We have a staff of seven. We provide hundreds of videos and thousands of factsheets, covering everything from skills, education and jobs, to alcoholism, mental health, self-harm and suicide. We provide young people with opportunities to discuss and debate issues and to connect with the help and services that are available. We also offer them small grants to help get their ideas off the ground.

The website is aimed at young people aged 16-25. How has this demographic been affected by the economic crash? There are 630,000 people in Ireland aged 16-25, so you can’t really tar them all with a broad brush. But the most obvious change in recent years is that the things young people could once take for granted – access to culture, opportunities for travel, graduate employment – are no longer a given. Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe and also one of the highest rates of youth unemployment and emigration. There is a sense that the future is bleak and that’s not a go