Pupils from Sandelford Special School have won £3,000 to support the Coleraine Cougars Special Olympics Club.
They made the winning presentation within the school against other groups competing for funding for their respective charities in a project run by the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, NI.
The pupils were among hundreds of schoolchildren across Northern Ireland, who have taken part in a project to win a total of £45,000 for the charities of their choice.
Around 1600 children from 15 schools took part in the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative NI, which encourages young people to engage with worthwhile causes in their own communities.
Throughout the year groups of children from Year 9 or 10 within each of the schools have competed to win £3,000 for their chosen charities and the final results were revealed today at a special celebration event in the Whitla Hall at Queen’s University, Belfast.
Lauren Lamberton YPI NI programme manager said: “YPI is all about challenging the young people to look at ways of improving the lives of people around them. Those who take part have developed vital skills in researching their charities talking to representatives of organisations and working on presentations.”
She said that YPI NI was hoping to increase the number of participating schools but this would involve getting more corporate sponsors to support the programme.
“There are a lot of schools who have expressed an interest in taking part. There is no doubt that if we are able to raise extra funds we would be able to expand this programme to the benefit of other schoolchildren.”
Lauren revealed that Youth and Philanthropy Initiative NI had come to the end of its funding last year but was saved when the fathers of a girl from one of the schools came to the rescue.
Businessman Neil McKibbin saw the positive effect that working on a social needs project had on his own daughter and offered to give 50% of the costs to run the project for a further three years.
He is now chair of the four man board and is committed to the work continuing to grow in Northern Ireland.
Neil’s daughter Kathryn had worked on a project with her school Bloomfield Collegiate, and although her group did not win the £3,000 first prize for their chosen charity, he saw the value of young people being engaged in such a rewarding exercise.
Lauren said the celebration was not all about the winners: “All of the pupils of the schools have gained a lot of confidence and social awareness out of working with charities. Lasting relationships have developed and these young people have developed an interest in working for the good of their communities.”
Next year they are hoping with extra funding to roll the project out to 20 to 25 schools.
Lauren added: “The programme doesn’t just benefit the charities that receive £3,000 but we have got groups of interested engaged young people working hard to help local charities.”
For more information email Programme Manage Lauren on firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 07725 588255.