The American Consul General, Kamala Lakhdhir, has praised a cross community sports programme that has teamed up hockey and camogie players from north and south Belfast.
Over 30 players from Mossley Ladies Hockey Club and St Enda's GAC from Newtownabbey, and Bredagh GAC from south Belfast are participating in the programme ‘Yes We Can’.
According to the organisers, strong relationships are beginning to develop between the girls involved and their leaders, even at this early stage.
They met the Consul General at the Odyssey arena as the Belfast Giants took on the Boston Bruins, one of the biggest ice hockey clubs in the world.
Paula McKay from Bredagh GAC, who was attending an ice hockey match for the first time, said: “I wasn't expecting the game to be so fast and the skill of the players from both clubs is unbelievable.
“Watching sports stars performing at this level has shown to all of us the level of dedication it takes to succeed in sport, and hopefully this is something we can work towards as part of ‘Yes We Can’.”
The Consul General, who spent time with the girls at the match, was taken with the attitude and commitment of the young sportswomen and was keen to offer her praise and support for the project. “This is an exciting project that will make a real and lasting difference to the individuals, clubs and communities involved.
“I have enjoyed meeting with the girls tremendously and hope to follow them throughout the rest of their project and support them where I can. I look forward to watching them play.”
The “Yes We Can” project involves young women learning about each other’s sports and cultures and hopes to foster and develop better links between sports clubs from different backgrounds.
In addition, participants will have the opportunity to explore issues around diversity and difference and attend a number of sporting and other events.
They have recently returned from a successful visit to the All Ireland Camogie Finals at Croke Park where they had the opportunity to meet Irish Camogie President Joan O'Flynn.
Ms. Lakhdhir, who is promoting the significant contribution young women from all backgrounds make to society, was keen to stress the wider relevance of Belfast Giants to the project beyond the sporting connection.
“Belfast Giants were an early symbol of a City that was emerging confidently from the conflict that had affected its past,” she said.
“By participating in projects such as this, young women are able to reinforce the progress that has been made towards a peaceful society and develop the skills and confidence necessary to become future leaders for their communities.”
The “Yes We Can” project is funded by the CAN Peace III Partnership as part of the European Union's PEACE III Programme which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.