Belfast Telegraph

Funds earmarked for young people

It is hoped a new £50 million fund will help struggling young people cope with major challenges in their lives.

Young carers, juveniles with learning disabilities and youths at at risk of falling out of education or work are all expected to benefit from the multi million scheme, according to the Big Lottery Fund.

Grants of between £100,000 and £600,000 will be available to community or voluntary projects that can enable young people aged between eight and 25 to change their lives.

Frank Hewitt, chair of the Big Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland said: "We want to fund great projects that increase their skills and confidence, and support them to have stronger relationships so they can cope better with the challenges they face and reach their full potential.

"We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact this money will make to many young people across Northern Ireland."

The funding programme called Empowering Young People will remain open for six years.

Among those to benefit from a similar scheme is Ethiopian Henok Zewdeu, 19, who arrived in Belfast alone and with little English five years ago.

He was taken into care but struggled in school because of the language barrier.

Mr Zewdeu said: "It was really difficult to do the school work because English isn't my first language.

"I failed my GCSEs. I felt like life was awful and I had failed my education.

"But then my social worker told me about the Give and Take Scheme at Include Youth. I thought, okay, I'll try it.

" I've been here studying for my OCN qualifications and essential skills in English, Maths and ICT since last year. The staff support me with my studies and also helped me get a work placement at Clements coffee shop in Belfast city centre two days a week.

"Now I'm moving on - hopefully I am going to Belfast Metropolitan College to study software development in September.

"Life has been tough but you have to stand up for yourself and work hard.

"I hope my family would be proud of me."

The Big Lottery Fund is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invests over £650 million a year in health, education, environmental and charitable projects across the UK.

For more details about Empowering Young People, including details of support workshops, go to www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/northernireland.

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