Over 600 young people from across the Causeway area have been working hard to make their communities safer and more welcoming places.
Through participating in the 2014-15 ‘Hands off my Friend’ campaign, young people in schools and youth agencies across the area learned what hate crime is, why it happens and what they can do to tackle it.
As one participating young person stated: “If we hadn’t learnt about hate crime we wouldn’t think about the consequences. You’d think its ok to say something about the colour of someone’s skin…but now we think about it more.”
Even though more than half of hate crime is thought to go unreported the Police Service of Northern Ireland investigates around three race related incidents each day.
In response to this issue, the ‘Hands off my Friend’ training programme was developed as a joint initiative between Coleraine Borough Council, Ballymoney Borough Council, Limavady Borough Council, and Moyle District Council.
The campaign forms part of the Good Relations Strategy for the four Councils and has received financial support from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
The programme was delivered on behalf of the Councils by Corrymeela - Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation, with assistance from the PSNI and the Youth Justice Agency.
Project Coordinator with Corrymeela Sean Pettis said: “Whilst everyone has a role to play in tackling hate, we were particularly
pleased to support young people to think about what they can do. In our 50th anniversary year we are reminded that Corrymeela was started by a group of young people who wanted to create a different, more inclusive future. We believe Hands off my Friend has supported young people in the present to recognise their potential to build change.”
The Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy commented, “I am delighted that this project has been delivered to so many of our local young people across the Causeway area this year.
“Knowing the devastating effects that hate crime can have on individuals and communities, it is important that we equip people with the knowledge and courage required to change their own behaviour and to report hate crime that they have either experienced or witnessed.
“This project is one of many within our Good Relations strategy that seeks to promote positive leadership amongst young people and to contribute to improved community relations in our region.”