Belfast Telegraph

Peaceline teens game for Africa mission

By CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

He's from the Ardoyne. She's from the Shankill.

But Patrick Waring (17) and Sammy-Jo Mills (15), along with 10 other youngsters, are crossing the peacelines to make a difference.

In February, as part of the Belfast To Blanco project, teenagers from the Ardoyne Youth Club and Hammer Youth Club will travel to Cape Town, South Africa. During their 15-day trip the group of young Protestants and Catholics will help build a park, feed the sick and poor, and engage with young prisoners.

Following an application process, the group of 12 were chosen and have been preparing and fundraising since June.

Ahead of the trip they have been crossing the divide on a weekly basis, learning skills that they can use in Africa to help support the people in Blanco.

Patrick, from the nationalist Ardoyne, said he was looking forward to seeing what the world had to offer.

"I can't wait to see how other people live and what other lifestyles there are, and to see how we will all work together," he said.

Sammy-Jo, who comes from the loyalist Shankill Road, jumped at the opportunity when she heard about the project. "I'm looking forward to getting close to everyone, even from the groups interacting now we can see how much of a bond we've got.

"I would class some of them now as my really good friends," she said.

"I don't feel one ounce of sectarianism in my group, I just feel like we are a group of people having a laugh, and that's how I think it should be."

As they laughed together over a game of table-tennis in Ardoyne Youth Club, they said they had the full support of their friends and families for the trip.

Group leader Alan Waite (37) added: "The most important thing is what the young people will bring back to their own communities and how they will create a more positive impact in their own communities."

For more information and to see updates during their trip visit www.belfast2blanco.com.

QUOTES

Sammy-Jo Mills: "Some people probably think a group of 12 young people going to Africa is not going to solve Protestant and Catholic issues,but at least it's a start."

Patrick Waring: "People just think of violence when Catholics and Protestants come together, but there is more to it than that. We are all as one now. These friendships will last after the trip."

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