Learn how horse-riding and social enterprise have transformed the future for the community of Moyross in Limerick.

One of the standout experiences for National Enterprise Town Awards 2019 judges was learning how Moyross Youth Academy in Limerick, housed in once-dilapidated but now gleaming, refurbished buildings known locally as ‘The Bays’, is transforming its own future.

That future looks promising both in terms of cultivating social enterprise through a multitude of projects, including making furniture for the Peter McVerry Trust, developing chef skills, building their own gym, but also how several young people who have taken part in an equine training project now have an exciting future as trainers and jockeys in the equine industry.

“There is no doubt Moyross still faces many challenges, but they demonstrated they have come through the dark times and there is a real sense of optimism about the future”

During a recent visit to Limerick, ThinkBusiness met with Andrew O’Byrne, development manager for Moyross Development Company and in charge of the Moyross Youth Academy.

Limerick – and more specifically urban districts like Moyross – are often in the news headlines for all the wrong reasons.

But now, through the efforts of leaders like O’Byrne and his colleagues, as many as 150 teenagers on any given week have a safe place to grow and learn.

Moyross Development Company is the umbrella group for a range of activities being fostered at the Youth Academy that are funded from a range of sources ranging from the EU and the ESF to the Irish Government to notable successful Limerick business figures such as JP McManus.

Aspiration, inspiration

 
furniture being made in a factory.

Some of the coffee tables made by young people of Moyross. Image: John Kennedy

O’Byrne explained how ‘The Bays’ were once a collection of advance factories built by Shannon Development but became lost to time. Instead of allowing them to become dilapidated, local leaders converted the buildings stone by stone into a vibrant hub where the young people of Moyross can be safe but also learn and grow.

What is inspiring is how various facets of the city band together to help out.

Among the social enterprises that have grown out of the Moyross Youth Academy is a furniture business whose products are branded ‘MYA’ and proudly bear the tagline ‘Made in Moyross’.

The furniture – mostly lockers and coffee tables – are produced for the Peter McVerry Trust – with the help of CNC equipment provided by the local Limerick Institute of Technology and that are built on-premises at the Youth Academy.

Made in Moyross stamped on a piece of wood.

Proudly ‘Made in Moyross’. Image: John Kennedy

“Instead of a hand-out, this became a hand-up,” O’Byrne explained. “Peter McVerry Trust came to use and asked us to produce furniture for the houses and apartments that are being refurbished. We looked at a few samples and decided that not only could we make them, we could make even better versions. And so that’s the start of a social enterprise right there.

“Production ramped up after the president of LIT let us bring a couple of lads in to use their CNC machines. Our first order was 10 tables and 20 lockers and we then got a second order for 20 tables and 40 lockers. And in the next 12 months as 100 houses get refurbished we are ready to take orders for 100 coffee tables and 200 lockers. So now it’s a business.”

A ticket to ride

Four young boys dressed in horse-riding gear.

Members of the Thomond Pony Club.

Another serious game-changer for the Moyross community in Limerick has been how an equine programme has already set a number of young people from the area on the road to careers as jockeys and horse trainers.

Since 2007, Moyross Development Company and the Garda Youth Diversion Project (GYDP) have promoted a multi-agency equine initiative on the northside of Limerick city. Since inception, the group has been delivering positive developmental, educational, therapeutic and behavioural outcomes that have transformed the aspirations and expectations of young people.

Young jockeys including Lee Quinn and Alan Ryan and several others have become experienced riders who have taken part in racing trials in Ireland, the UK and in locations as far flung as Kentucky and California, taking part in showjumping trials in RACE, the Garda Mounted Unit and Army School for showjumping, and working at Coolmore Stud and Jim Bolger’s yard in Carlow.

O’Byrne said that the initiative has supported and encouraged young people from north Limerick to stay in school and harness their natural abilities and interests using a strengths-based approach.

“It began as a six-week programme. And all of a sudden the young people were buying into this big-time,” recalls O’Byrne. “We brought in farriers and took them on training days and eventually their talents began to show through with some of them landing work placements.”

He emphasised that the success of a few has informed the ambitions of more young people and so far in 2019 nine young people from north Limerick have raced as jockeys.

Crucially, he concludes, it was about allowing the young people from Moyross to see beyond their own horizons.

“These young people have a huge levels of agility and ability.”

“The morning we spent in Moyross with the NETA judges was incredibly uplifting and inspiring,” said Maria Kelly, head of Banking for Limerick, Bank of Ireland. “We were privileged to get insights into a community that has come together and achieved extraordinary results. There is no doubt Moyross still faces many challenges, but they demonstrated they have come through the dark times and there is a real sense of optimism about the future. This is a community that all of us in Limerick should get behind and celebrate their success.”

Main image: Lee Quinn demonstrates his equine skills. Image: Moyross Youth Academy

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 1 November, 2019

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