Youth project helps change lives

WELL DONE...Young people from Coleraine with their Detached Youth Project certificates. They are joined by project worker Tommy Van Wyck .
WELL DONE...Young people from Coleraine with their Detached Youth Project certificates. They are joined by project worker Tommy Van Wyck .

Dozens of young people from Coleraine, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Larne, Limavady and Moyle came together this week to celebrate a major project that has helped to transform their lives.

The ‘Detached Youth Project’ celebration event was held at the Bushtown House Hotel in Coleraine last Thursday, April 25th and recognised the hard work of 12 communities and around 160 young people aged 14 – 25, who developed lasting relationships with members from the other community.

The Coleraine project involved ten young people aged 16 to 21 from the Simon Community.

For a variety of reasons, they had ended up homeless and living in Simon accommodation. They engaged very well with the project and took part in an interactive programme through drama, groupwork, educational and cultural visits. They carried out a range of cross border visits and residentials to Donegal, Dublin, Louth and Limerick.

This exciting and challenging initiative was delivered by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) and funded under the European Union’s PEACE III Programme which is managed on behalf of the Special EU Programmes Body by the North East PEACE III Partnership.

Over the past two years, the young people, many of whom had no meaningful contact with the other side of the community, have taken part in training, cultural activities, residentials and cross border visits that have helped change their perception of other faiths, races and cultures.

Project co-ordinator Neil Symington from the NIYF, said the project encouraged the young people to address issues such racism, sectarianism, conflict and reconciliation.

“They really put their heart and soul into the project and produced some really innovative, exciting work. They have formed relationships that hopefully will last the rest of their lives.”

Guest speaker at the Celebration Event was Darrach MacDonald, a Monaghan-born Catholic who wrote the book ‘Blood and Thunder’ a revealing and sympathetic portrayal of a year in the life of the Castlederg Young Loyalists Flute Band.

MacDonald’s book, like the Detached Youth Project, challenged stereo-types and enabled him to understand and shine a light on a culture that was not his own.

The event also included a video premiere of the project, presentations by some of the young people involved, presentation of certificates and a drama performance by the Coleraine Simon Group.

The Detached Youth Project was one of the most ambitious ever undertaken by the NIYF, which put in place experienced detached workers to engage with young people, other providers and the local community. Each community had access to resources, outdoor learning and the skills of film and multi-media company BNL Productions to enhance their learning from the project.

For more information about the Detached Youth Project contact Neil Symington on 028 9033 1990, email neils@niyf.org or visitwww.northeastpeace.com