By Andrew Kennedy, Big Lottery Fund Communications Manager
Today we announced over £4.2 million to support some iof the most isolated young peope across Northern Ireland – and we’ve awarded major grants to project that will work to improve the opportunities of isolated and vulnerable young people living in interface areas in Belfast.
Nine projects across Northern Ireland have been awarded grants from our Reaching Out: Empowering Young People programme which supports young people most at risk in Northern Ireland, including those who have been disengaged from education, involved in crime or in care.
Ardoyne Youth Club has been awarded £469,845 to run support services and activities for young people who are at risk of getting involved in criminal activity in a number of interface areas including Ardoyne, Oldpark and Cliftonville.
Youth workers from the project will go out onto the streets to encourage young people to come along to the youth club, on Ardoyne’s Flax Street, to take part in a number of courses and activities to improve their education, boost their mental health, confidence and self esteem, teach them skills and help them find jobs.
As well as running courses and activities, the project will also start up a social enterprise in the youth club – a gym where the young people can get jobs and gain the skills needed to find jobs. Leader in Charge Thomas Turley, 29, who was involved in rioting in the Ardoyne area when he was a teenager, said the funding could not have come at a better time. “With the social unrest going on at the moment it’s more important than ever to show these young people that anti-social behaviour and rioting are not the answer, and they can do something positive with their lives,” he said.
“I used to be one of these young people, hanging about with nothing to do and no hope in sight. I ended up hanging about on the streets taking drugs and drinking. I got involved in rioting because I was attracted to the adrenaline and the buzz. There was no one there to tell me to stop and I just didn’t care about anything, so I just went for it. I was given a community service order and referred to this youth club, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“They showed me that I could make something of myself if I got my head down and I went on to get qualifications in youth work at university. I came back to work in this community and give something back and show other young people that they can do the same with their lives.”
Colin Glen Trust (CGT) has also been awarded £491,122 to run activities and training courses in Colin Glen Forest Park to improve the opportunities of isolated young people who are involved in anti-social and crime in the Colin Glen, Greater Belfast and Lisburn areas, as well as stopping vandalism in the park.
There are also plans for midnight soccer, multi-skills and volunteer programmes, workshops in drug, alcohol and suicide awareness, team building and circuit training. Once they have gained qualifications, the young people will be encouraged to start a social enterprise activity club such as key fit classes for adults or a summer scheme for local children.
“This is one of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland,” said Chief Executive Colin O’Neill. “Young people tend to gather on the streets or in the park and there have been issues here with drinking and drugs. There have also been cases where young people have taken bins and set them alight in the park and there have been problems with scrambler bikes and cases of joy riding.
“The social unrest in local communities in Belfast is something that we are aware of it when it comes to running this project. We will be working across a number of areas, developing relationships with other community organisations working in these communities to target those young people most in need. We want to show young people that rioting, violence and anti-social behaviour are not the right paths.”
Other projects awarded funding include British Deaf Association (NI) which has been awarded £348,934 to run the ‘Deaf Roots & Pride’ project which aims to improve the confidence, communication and educational opportunities for young Deaf people aged 8-20 who have disengaged from education or are at risk of disengaging.
And CLIC Sargent Cancer Care for Children is using £363,646 to support 16 to 20-year-olds who are going through cancer treatment with the moves between hospital based care and their own community.
Visit our website to see the other projects that have been funded: