THE conclusion of a three-year cross-community project to bring lasting positive change was marked with a special celebration event held in Portstewart.
Funded by the International Fund for Ireland, the ‘Understanding Our Space, Celebrating Diversity’ project was undertaken by women from Ballysally, a predominantly Unionist estate in Coleraine, and from Creevagh, a mainly Nationalist estate in Derry.
The project is one of 30 in the International Fund for Irelands Integrating Community Organisations Programme which seeks to build partnerships between community organisations from the two main traditions for the benefit of both communities.
Both areas witnessed some of the worst incidents during the Troubles and the project aimed to bring about long-term positive change at community level by facilitating collaboration events and initiatives to address the challenge of celebrating diversity and emphasising similarities. he International Fund for Ireland provided £85,620 towards the original project which placed great emphasis on promoting learning and reconciliation within communities.
Adrian Johnston, Chair of the International Fund for Ireland commented: “The Fund is pleased to have supported this project. It is a practical demonstration of the Fund’s strategy of promoting peace and reconciliation by bringing people together from different backgrounds to dispel fears and remove barriers to understanding.
The women involved in this project are an inspiration. Change can be challenging and they have taken brave steps to move well beyond their comfort zones. Projects such as this bring benefits across large areas. They provide the confidence and knowhow to remove barriers and move communities forward. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this important project.”
ore than 350 women from the two communities participated in a range of cultural exchange activities over the three years.
ocus on Family oversaw the Project and Manager, Brendan Patterson, said: “We are very grateful for the support of the International Fund for Ireland that has made this possible through its generous financial support.
By gently introducing participants to the process of reconciliation, differences could be explored and the misperceptions of other traditions could be ironed out. This was fundamental to the success of the overall project and in getting everyone on board. Interest and excitement in this project has been remarkable and more people want to become involved in this vision of a shared space whereby we celebrate diversity and ensure maximum participation for the benefit of all.”
he event was held at the York Hotel in Portstewart last Friday and attended by the Mayor of Derry City Council Alderman Maurice Devenney, the Deputy Mayor of Coleraine Borough Council William King, and representatives from local council, community leaders and distinguished guests.
At the same event a further phase of the project was launched. It will not only include women from Ballysally and Creevagh but those from groups in Ballymoney and St Johnston in Donegal and, at a cost of £57,440, is also being supported by the International Fund for Ireland.
Dr Johnston continued “it’s great to see these women seeking to expand the reach of their work and the Fund is very pleased to offer this additional support which will allow the work to continue until the spring of 2013.”