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Christmas comes early as Belfast primary school given sporting boost from Game Changers NI programme

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Children from Fane Street Primary School with Lady Mary Peters

Children from Fane Street Primary School with Lady Mary Peters

Children from Fane Street Primary School with Lady Mary Peters

Christmas came early for the staff and pupils at Fane Street Primary School in south Belfast when Lady Mary Peters joined her Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland (CGNI) colleagues in making a surprise delivery of new sports equipment.

This was the latest element of a global Commonwealth Sport Foundation ‘Game Changers’ programme designed to utilise sport to make positive impacts within communities.

While most people will recognise CGNI as the body which manages the participation of Northern Ireland’s elite athletes at each Commonwealth Games, the organisation’s impact within the community is sometimes overlooked.

Over the last two months, it has been sports day every Friday at Fane Street as children have been able to participate in sports sessions including Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Fencing, Judo, Lawn Bowls and Table Tennis. Sessions have been led by coaches from CGNI member sports and have included a number of Commonwealth Games athletes and coaches.

Commonwealth Games NI have also availed of support from PeacePlayers NI to deliver both the fundamentals of Basketball and a peace-building curriculum which incorporates sessions on personal development and mutual understanding to the children, many of whom have recently arrived in Northern Ireland from areas of conflict around the world.

This partnership between Commonwealth Games NI and PeacePlayers renewed a pre-pandemic collaboration which saw Young Ambassadors being trained as part of the Department for Communities’ T:BUC (Together; Building United Communities) programme before travelling to work with their peers in Rwanda. One of those Young Ambassadors is now part of the delivery team working within Fane Street Primary School.

Sessions will continue in January when the new equipment will be fully utilised. In the lead up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the children at Fane Street will certainly enjoy a close up view of TeamNI’s preparations as part of the ‘One Community – One Team’ motto.

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“It’s been a privilege to offer sporting and personal development opportunities to the pupils at Fane Street as part of the Commonwealth Sport Foundation’s Game Changer programme,” said Commonwealth Games NI business and operations manager Conal Heatley.

"A massive ‘Thank You’ goes to our partners at PeacePlayers NI and to all the coaches within our member sports who have contributed over the last couple of months. The support of the staff and enthusiasm of the children has been inspiring, and a lesson to us all. We’re already looking forward to restarting early in the New Year.”

Gordon Nicholl, the vice-principal at Fane Street Primary, added: “We’re very grateful for the wonderful opportunities that Commonwealth Games NI have provided for the school.

"Our children come from all around the world, with 85% of them having English as an additional language, but this has been a fantastic example of sport overcoming language barriers and being used to bring people together. We look forward to working with the team in 2022.”


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