THE conclusion of a three-year cross-community, cross-border project to bring lasting positive change was marked with a special celebration event held in Derry/Londonderry.
Funded by the International Fund for Ireland the ‘Understanding Our Space, Celebrating Diversity’ Project was undertaken by women from Ballysally, the predominantly Unionist estate in Coleraine, Creavagh, a mainly Nationalist estate in Derry/Londonderry, Fab Femme, women’s group in Ballymoney and St Johnston Family & Resource Centre, St Johnston and Carrigans villages in Co Donegal.
The project is one of 40 in the International Fund for Irelands Integrating Community Organisations Programme which seeks to build lasting partnerships between community organisations from the two main traditions and on a cross-border basis, for the benefit of both communities. Groups involved received training, mentoring and support as they implemented their initiatives.
The areas witnessed some of the worst effects of 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.
The Fund provided £85,620 towards the original two-year project which placed great emphasis on promoting learning and reconciliation within communities. Subsequently an additional £57,440 was awarded to allow the project to operate for a further year with the involvement of the Ballymoney and Donegal groups, thus extending the project’s impact.
Dr Adrian Johnston, chairman 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.”
More than 600 women from the four communities participated in a range of cultural exchange activities over the three years.
Focus on Family was the lead partner and Manager, Brendan Patterson, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support of the International Fund for Ireland that has made this possible through its generous financial support and indeed its commitment of an additional year’s extension and funding. I also want to thank the Fund and its agent, the Rural Development Council for the mentoring and support we received thought the project.
“The additional year’s funding enabled the project to build on the significant success of the initial two years work focusing on history, culture and identity’.
“That work exceeded all expectations and reached many more people than thought possible. The third year included two new groups which incorporated a cross border element and created the opportunity for increased involvement and partnership working. The women have reported the most outstanding achievement to date as the depth of the relationships formed and the willingness to build on these relationships after the project has finished.”