Belfast charity honoured with top award
A Belfast charity shared the spotlight with sporting greats such as Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Francesco Totti and Edwin Moses at a star-studded ceremony in Monaco this week.
Active Communities Network were recognised for their work at the Laureus Awards as they were given the 2018 Sport for Good award.
The award is given to a person or organisation who, in the eyes of the members of Laureus World Sports Academy, have used the power of sport to overcome violence, discrimination or disadvantage.
The charity use sport as part of an extensive programme to support high-risk youths in communities, while also providing training and teaching to them through specialist centres.
In Belfast, the charity has two offices in Ballymurphy and Whiterock and they expanded their influence in 2011 right across the city.
Their success has seen 189 qualifications gained by youths who were impacted by the charity's work, while 378 volunteers have signed up to help with the programme.
The award was handed to Director of Programmes Jim Donnelly and boxer Dean McComb, who was directly influenced by the programme.
Dean now works with ACN having overcome the passing of his partner Caoimhe with the help of the charity, and it was he who accepted the accolade from Holywood actor Benedict Cumberbatch at the ceremony.
"On the 27th February 2016 I found my partner Caoimhe dead," McComb said. "This year on the 27th I'm in Monaco collecting this award.
"In 2016 I never believed I'd be alive, never mind being here. Today I'm thinking of Caoimhe but also my two children and I want to help make their futures better, with sport and ACN I can do this."
Donnelly said: "It is a great honour that the work of Active Communities Network across Ireland, the UK and South Africa has been recognised with the Laureus Sport for Good award.
"We believe that sport is a fantastic facilitator and pathway to deliver resilience, stability and cohesion in disadvantaged communities. Our staff work to try and create long-term social change through frontline projects, training and research initiatives."
Actor Cumberbatch said: "I have seen first-hand the work Active Communities Network undertakes, and for me it is the perfect example of Sport for Good.
"I met inspirational leaders who have come through the programme and are now role models, coaches and facilitators, giving back to the next generation."