Belfast Telegraph

Youth group has major role in city’s peace plan

by Natalie Gorman

Young people from Ballysillan involved in a local youth project have been commended by the Lord Mayor for “hugely contributing to Belfast’s peace plan”.

The group of teens and others in their early 20s was among the shining case studies on Belfast City Council’s I Citizen programme.

Jim Crothers works with the youth group through the support organisation North Belfast Alternatives, a body that focuses on preventing young people becoming involved in punishment beatings, shootings and expulsions.

Jim explained: “I Citizen was a 10-week project to help develop peace and reconciliation between diverse community groups. It certainly helped people understand the role each of us has to play to create a strong and peaceful society.

“The youth group we work with in Ballysillan really took to the project and forged some terrific friendships with young people from the Falls Road who were also involved in the programme.

“Every young person in the group already had their fair share of life trauma and everyone had a story to tell.

“Together, the two groups discussed subjects like respect for the law, rights and responsibilities, prejudices and perceptions.

“It was a chance too for them to share their opinions of Belfast and their hopes for the future,” he said.

“The two groups gelled together very well on the residentials we organised as part of the project and I know a lot of the young people meet up together in the town now as a result.”

The I Citizen project and last week’s ‘Are young people missing the peace?’ youth conference at the Ulster Hall were organised by Scoutlink on Belfast City Council’s behalf.

The programme provided opportunities for ‘young people at risk’ in communities all over Belfast — its emphasis on citizenship to promote the council’s anti-sectarian and anti-racist message.

Councillor Pat Convery told young people at the conference: “Leadership, team work, respect for your peers and |respect for yourself are all key scouting values and also key values in the |promotion and maintenance of good |relations.

“Programmes like this one provide a focus and exciting opportunities for young people as we continue to emerge from the divisions of the past.

“The valuable work done on this programme and in communities across the city will continue to have a positive impact and help consolidate the peace enjoyed by our citizens over the |coming years”.

“I am calling on you all to work together to meet this challenge and to assure you that I will lend you my full support in your efforts.

“Through building on the friendships made and experiences shared on this programme all of you here this evening can help make this city a better city.”

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