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Community ‘apprentices’ praised for transforming West Belfast neighbourhoods

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Four young people enrolled on a special apprenticeship-type initiative were today (8th December) honoured for bringing new community leadership and positive change to the Highfield and Springmartin areas of West Belfast.

Last year, Chloe O’Boyle, Ryan Moorehead, Alexander McCaw and Dylan McMurray secured places on the eleven-month Community Peer Leadership Programme that enabled them to complete accredited training and engage in mentoring and peer youth work within their communities. As a result, a number of new cross-community links have been created with young people in Upper Springfield and two of the participants have gone on to secure paid youth work.

The initiative was supported by the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Impact Programme and delivered by Blackmountain Shared Space Project (BMSSP) and Blackmountain Action Group (BMAG) which facilitated the youth work apprenticeships and supervised the mentoring elements.

Billy Gamble, International Fund for Ireland Board Member, said:
“The young people involved in this project deserve credit for the achievements that they and this project have made. In recent months, they have taken positive risks and reached out to other communities in ways that older generations have been nervous about doing. They are opening the door to transformation and it is only right that they and others are supported to realise their individual and community potential.

“There is a need in this area to develop more young leaders and deliver dynamic and innovative peace building work and training opportunities. We had confidence in the ability of Blackmountain Shared Space Project to deliver on these goals and to build new linkages and opportunities with similar work that is underway in the Upper Springfield area. The investment in this project is paying dividends for the communities and I congratulate the four participants for their commitment and accomplishments.”

Joanna Felo, BMSSP Coordinator, said:
“This project is about equipping young people with the knowledge, skills and competencies to become agents of change and build a more positive future for themselves and others. Through the project, the local communities have established important new links and participants have begun important conversations around difficult issues including sectarianism and division.

“We’ve been greatly impressed by how the participants have applied themselves within the programme and proactively within their communities. It is pleasing to see offers of employment coming forward, but more importantly strong foundations have been laid for others to carry forward the lessons of the programme and sustain new cross-community relationships.”

BMSSP is an inter-community partnership that brings together groups that represent communities across the Upper Springfield/Moyard/New Barnsley and Springmartin/Highfield areas. In November 2014, the International Fund for Ireland awarded £29,825 to BMSSP for the delivery of the Community Peer Leadership Programme.

BMSSP has also previously secured funding through the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Walls Programme for a project that works to build confidence and dialogue on interface barriers. The BMSSP Peace Walls Project was extended for a further year in November 2015

To find out more about the Peace Impact Programme visit http://www.internationalfundforireland.com/peace-impact-programme