Belfast Telegraph

City’s youths celebrated for attempts to make difference

North Belfast groups have been praised for their contributions to local society at a City Hall awards night last week.

The annual Young People’s Awards reward under-21s who are involved in projects that are helping to transform Belfast.

Among those receiving awards were a 15-year-old girl who has organised drug and alcohol awareness groups for her peers, teenagers who engaged with older generations to help reduce anti-social behaviour, and young people who have been raising awareness about racism and bullying.

City Hall was turned into a ‘Big Top’ for the night as circus acts entertained the young people in the event organised by Belfast City Council in partnership with its Youth Forum, Belfast Community Safety Partnership, Thomas Devlin Trust, Youth Justice Agency and Belfast District Policing Partnership.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Pat Convery, said: “I have been truly impressed by some of the stories I’ve heard from these young people, who are all worthy winners. Their efforts are inspiring and prove that you are never too young to make a difference, not just in your own life, but in the lives of others. The fact too that some of the young people here tonight had the courage to acknowledge that they were perhaps on the wrong track and took the decision to turn things around for the better is really encouraging. They deserve recognition for the hard work they’re putting into brokering a sense of community spirit in their areas.”

Joseph McCall and Sean Rooney from west Belfast received the Outstanding Achievement Award and £1,000 after they started two football teams to get youths off the streets.

Translink Youth Forum won the Thomas Devlin Award for its drama and workshop for schools dealing with bullying and anti-social behaviour on public transport.

Penny Holloway from the Thomas Devlin Trust said: “We thought this was a very exciting and original project, and was proof of just how creative young people can be.”

In the Community Safety Awards, north Belfast gold winner was the Young Men and Violence group.

This 10-strong group from Ligoniel has cleaned up an eyesore and created two murals as well as helped to bring their community together and reduce anti-social behaviour.

North Belfast silver winner was the Fernhill Action Project. With the support of Shankill Alternatives, the Fernhill Action Project has restored the historic house for the whole community and greatly reduced the fear of anti-social behaviour in the area.

The Building Bridges Forum won the Youth Forum Award for tackling interface issues in their community. They work with Neighbourhood Police Officers to improve community relations and challenge division and have produced literature addressing issues such as rioting and racism.

“They have shown great leadership, initiative and drive, which has resulted in turning around the once-resistant attitudes of their peers so that they too can now enjoy cross-community activities,” the judges said.

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