The Irish Football Association and the PSNI in east Belfast have adopted a new approach to help reduce hate crime and increase racial awareness, using sport as the hook to address community relation issues.
They invited young people from Hells Kitchen, New York, to take part in a highly successful Sport and Interculturalism Youth Forum with over thirty students from schools across east Belfast. The event was held at Ashfield Boys High School last week.
Chief Inspector Mark Purdon explained the reasons behind the visit: "The young people from New York attend the High School of Hospitality and Management in New York where positive Community Relations and Interculturalism are incorporated into the fabric of their education and the sports they play.
"Police, in partnership with the IFA and schools in east Belfast, held a highly successful Sport and Interculturalism Youth Forum on Tuesday to increase racial awareness.
"As a police service we are dedicated to implementing the 10 Year Strategy for Children and Young People in Northern Ireland.
"One of it's pledges is to ensure that children and young people are supported to grow together in a shared, inclusive society where they respect diversity and culture."
The IFA's Head of Community Relations, Michael Boyd, said the forum helps the IFA make a positive impact in the community.
"The IFA is a socially responsible organisation committed to promoting positive community relations, " Michael said.
"The Youth Forum brought together an exceptional group of young people from New York and six different schools from across east Belfast to discuss the community relations issues facing sport. The forum was facilitated by one of our Football For All Community Relations trainers, David White from Concept Eleven and I also delivered a Football For All workshop with over 100 of the Year Nine Students.
" Ashfield Boys High School is a fantastic school and we were delighted to hold the forum there. The community police in east Belfast deserve a lot of credit for the good work they are doing and we thoroughly enjoyed working with them on the forum."
Michael said he hoped to work in partnership with the PSNI and local schools to make it an annual event.