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Building Bridges

on .


Segregation and sectarianism remain very real challenges in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties. The International Fund for Ireland is committed to providing opportunities which bring together individuals and groups from both sides of the community and the border to explore common issues and experiences.

The Fund’s Building Bridges work has a particular focus on creating cross-community and cross-border opportunities for young people through a series of programmes which also enhance their employability, skills and self-esteem.

This focus on the next generation is coupled with the Community Bridges Programme’s support for innovative and ground-breaking community projects which seek to address difference and division and promote reconciliation and mutual understanding between all sections of the community, particularly in interface areas.

Learning and Educating Together (LET) Programme

LET aims to break the cycle of poor educational achievement and unemployment by bringing together students aged 12-13 from both sides of the border and from both traditions into a series of camps to learn about personal finance, budgeting, good communication and business planning.

The Programme has been extremely successful in facilitating the development of friendships between individuals from different religions and backgrounds. Following the Programme, 85% of participants said that they had friends from a different religion compared to 68% at the start.

In 2009, the LET Programme which is delivered jointly by Young Enterprise Northern Ireland and Junior Achievement Ireland, 600 young people took part in the camps and approximately 4,500 young people have participated in the Programme since its inception in 2003.

This Programme is now closed to applications.

Knowledge through Enterprise for Youth (KEY) Programme

KEY works with 14-16 year olds to enhance their personal development through enterprise training, business tasks and outdoor activities during a series of four residential camps.

Through the Programme, young people from different traditions and community backgrounds are able to develop a greater understanding and tolerance for other traditions and firm friendships are often formed.

Each year Young Entrepreneurs of the Year are chosen from the KEY participants and they are rewarded with a trip to Canada, to participate in the Canadian Junior Achievement Conference (JAXchange).

Independent annual evaluations repeatedly demonstrate that KEY is successful in meeting its twin aims of promoting peace and reconciliation between the two main communities in Ireland and addressing the disadvantage of marginalised young people by teaching them enterprise and personal skills. 

In 2009, the KEY Programme, which is delivered jointly by Young Enterprise Northern Ireland and Junior Achievement Ireland, 900 young people took part in the camps and approximately 8,000 young people have participated in the Programme since its inception in 1999.  

This Programme is now closed to applications.

Knowledge through Enterprise for Youth (KEY Start) Programme

The KEY Start Programme is based on the well established KEY Programme and is a 10-day initiative aimed at young people in alternative education (14-16 year olds).

The Programme aims to:

  • develop self esteem and confidence and enhance the ability of participants to positively contribute to society;
  • increase the likelihood that participants will become economically active and less likely to be socially excluded; and
  • develop a better understanding of cultural diversity.

This Programme is now closed to applications.

Gerry Rogan Initiative Trust (GRIT) Programme

This Programme aims to assist young people (16-17 year olds) to consider the implications of their decisions and actions; encourage them to take a more positive view of themselves and their future; examine their own and each other’s identity and background; and make positive plans for the future.

This programme is now closed.

Wider Horizons Programme

Wider Horizons is one of the Fund’s longest established programmes. It brings together young adults aged 18-28 from economically and socially disadvantaged areas from both sides of the border and provides them with training, work experience and a unique opportunity to gain a greater insight into, and respect for, each others’ traditions.

A Wider Horizons Project Group typically involves 21 participants drawn equally from the nationalist and unionist traditions in Northern Ireland and from the southern border counties with one project also taking participants from Dublin.

Each project normally lasts 20 weeks and is divided into three stages. The first stage is pre-departure which includes training in vocational skills, mutual understanding, conflict resolution, team building and personal development.

Stage two includes work experience in an overseas location, where the groups continue to address mutual understanding and personal development issues.

The third stage involves completing vocational qualifications and developing job search skills so that they can make applications for employment or further training/education courses.

Since it began in 1986, approximately 16,500 young people have completed the Wider Horizons Programme in destinations such as: Canada, America, Europe and South Africa.

This Programme is now closed to applications.

Community Bridges Programme

The Community Bridges Programme is at the forefront of the work of the International Fund for Ireland in helping communities in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties to use ground breaking projects to develop community relations, reconciliation and international links.

The Community Bridges Programme exists to support:

  • reconciliation for a shared future;
  • organisations delivering projects with the potential to make a significant contribution to reconciliation and the emergence of a shared and peaceful future on the island of Ireland; and
  • organisations wishing to undertake activities that address issues of conflict and division related to the troubles.

Priority is given to applications from organisations:

  • located in areas that have experienced a high degree of violence and polarisation;
  • working to secure a shared future for young people and future generations;
  • undertaking work with singular identity communities where there is a clear path towards cross community engagement and reconciliation and clear buy in from the local community.

Preference is given to proposals:

  • that can make a lasting, positive impact on division and conflict;
  • that add value and create bridges to other Fund initiatives;
  • demonstrating community leadership towards a shared future;
  • targeted at geographic areas where there has previously been limited Fund involvement;
  • addressing strategic gaps in community relations reconciliation provision.
This Programme is now closed to applications.


Case Study:

Learning Through Engagement
Monday, 11 March 2013
article thumbnailCoordinated by the Linc Project in Belfast’s York Road, the Learning Through Engagement (LTE) Project aims to establish cross-community links between urban and rural women’s groups. It uniquely uses the experience of established groups throughout Northern Ireland to help in the training and development of new and emerging ones. The project facilitators are Denise Hughes and Nuala Barr. Denise, the Senior Facilitator on the project, says that the breadth of the range of groups and their...
article thumbnailFor some young people, Fund supported programmes like LET provide the first opportunity to mix with peers from other traditions and backgrounds.Launched in 2003, LET targets schoolchildren in the 12-13 age group from maintained and controlled schools in Northern Ireland and schools in the southern border counties. Approximately 6,000 pupils have participated in the programme. Around 600 pupils take part in three residentials each academic year. These help the young people develop friendships –...
Wider Horizons Programme
Monday, 11 March 2013
article thumbnailThe Wider Horizons Programme is the Fund’s longest running programme, its origins go back as far as 1986 and approximately 8,000 young people have benefited from the programme.Springboard Opportunities Limited is one of the current delivery agents for the Wider Horizons Programme. Springboard has been involved in the delivery of the programme since 1992. Springboard delivers the programme specifically for young unemployed people from the greater Belfast area and Dublin.
article thumbnailNI Alternatives is an organisation which works across the Greater Belfast area to address issues of justice and conflict, mainly within disadvantaged Unionist communities, through non-violent, restorative ways. Action for Community Transformation (ACT) and Pupils and Community Together (PACT) are two of its most ambitious projects.
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
article thumbnailYouthcom is a Diocesan Youth Forum that was set up in 1997 by Bishop Patrick Walsh as a response of the faith community to the ever-changing needs of young people. The idea behind the organisation was to help and support young people within the Diocese of Down and Connor in all aspects of their life and growth.
article thumbnailIn a town where young people are involved in anti-social activity and where dissident paramilitary groups are active, the Shankill Parish Caring Association Youth Reach Project has been steadfastly chipping away at barriers.
article thumbnailThe innovative delivery methodology employed in this programme challenges participants through in-depth personal development and exploration activities. It includes a combination of residential events and one-to-one mentoring sessions aimed at keeping young people engaged with training through improving self-confidence and respect for others, and empowering them to make positive choices for their futures.