Anti-racist group like ‘glue’ for split communities
South Belfast Roundtable on Racism has won a prize for its ‘outstanding’ work at the Northern Ireland Intercultural Achievement Awards.
Stephanie Mitchell, who assists with the group’s Friendship Club, collected the Community Cohesion Award in front of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister at a ceremony in Stormont.
Denise Wright, race relations co-ordinator from the South Belfast Roundtable said: “We are delighted to receive this award and to see the work which has been undertaken in the integration project recognised.
“This project is very much a collaborative effort involving not only members of the Friendship Club but also all the organisations and individuals who planned and delivered over 52 events to celebrate inclusion in June this year.”
The organisation was established in January 2004 as a response to the rising trend in racist attacks in South Belfast. The initiative now brings together representatives from over 60 minority ethnic groups, local community groups, faith and political leaders, and representatives of key statutory bodies with an interest in working in local communities to promote good relations and identify projects that can effectively tackle racist attitudes.
Through the Roundtable’s education programme, a range of training is delivered free of charge to groups in south Belfast and individuals can access specific anti-racism and cultural diversity training.
Their friendship club runs a drop-in at Common Grounds Café every week, and invites people from many different backgrounds and walks of life to come along and share their experiences. It also provides an ideal setting for people to practise their English informally.
The initiative also organises the annual Inclusion Festival which usually takes place in the south of the city but this year, expanded Belfast-wide, with over 45 events taking place, that included exhibitions, food demonstrations, and an outdoor film screening.
Jennifer Hawthorne, head of the Housing Executive’s Community Cohesion Unit, which sponsored the award, said: “This award initiative is about sharing and learning from good practice and it is a unique opportunity to highlight how communities have promoted integration and built strong and positive relationships between people from different backgrounds. This is what cohesion is all about. It’s the glue that holds communities together.
“It is particularly fitting that the Housing Executive is sponsoring the Community Cohesion award as we are passionately committed to supporting the vital work being done by communities and organisations to promote community cohesion and good relations.”