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Change Makers Programme launched in greater Belfast schools

Published on:  01 Dec 2010
Innovative new programme to develop community relations ethos in Greater Belfast Schools

The International Fund for Ireland today launched an innovative new Programme which aims to develop and embed a greater community relations ethos in post primary schools, which will directly involve up to 8,000 young people over a three year period.

The Change Makers Programme is the shared vision of three experienced organisations; Northern Ireland’s Children’s Enterprise (NICE), City of Belfast YMCA, and Community Relations in Schools (CRIS). This group of well respected organisations have come together with a common goal - to bring best and effective practice in the field of community relations to the education sector.

Change Makers which is funded under the International Fund for Ireland’s Sharing in Education Programme is a three-year programme which will be delivered initially to 10 post primary schools in the Greater Belfast area, ensuring a cross section of Unionist and Nationalist participation.

Change Makers will engage 14-18 year old pupils in accredited OCN programmes and 11-18 year olds in non-accredited community relations programmes. These Programmes will explore young peoples understanding of prejudice, discrimination, sectarianism and increase their awareness of different cultures.

It is hoped that the Programme will help develop a collaborative approach to community relations between schools and that the learning will be passed down to the younger pupils and also nurtured within the home and into wider society.

The International Fund for Ireland under the Sharing in Education Programme contributed a significant investment of £1,134,049 towards Change Makers. Anne Henderson, Board Member, International Fund for Ireland said: “This new programme will contribute significantly to peace building and reconciliation by involving up to 2,750 pupils each year that it runs. One of our key aims at the International Fund for Ireland is to support projects which have the potential to deliver and sustain positive impacts within and between local communities long after the Fund ceases to exist.

“The shared vision of the three organisations – NICE, Belfast YMCA and CRIS – has resulted in this ground-breaking new programme and it is worth noting that this is the first joint application received under the Sharing in Education Programme which I believe demonstrates the commitment of the voluntary sector to building a stronger community relations understanding among our young people and enabling schools to make positive changes within their own communities.”

Ciara McFarlane from Change Makers commented; “There is already a high demand for participation in this Programme and we are very excited to roll out the first tranche of activity. We hope Change Makers will not only increase young people’s understanding of community relations issues but it will give schools the opportunity to be catalysts for change in their own communities.”

John Houston from Forthill Integrated College commented: “This is a really exciting Programme as it has the potential to really change attitudes not just within our young people, but whole schools and society at large. There will be a sharing of cultures, values and beliefs through meaningful contact with others and we are looking forward to getting started!”

The 10 Post Primary schools that Change Makers are working with are Priory Integrated College, Malone Integrated College, Crumlin Integrated College, Forthill Integrated College, St. Patrick’s Lisburn, St. Colm’s Twinbrook, St. Louise’s Belfast, Hunter House College, Friends Lisburn and Lisnagarvey High School. The three Primary Schools are Harmony Hill, St. Aloysius Lisburn and St. Joseph’s Lisburn.

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