A future for Ardoyne’s young people

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Caitlin Ewing is one of the young people benefiting from the project
Caitlin Ewing is one of the young people benefiting from the projectWritten by Lucy Gollogly

By Lucy Gollogly

The latest edition of our BIG magazine is out now. It tells the stories of people across Northern Ireland whose lives have been transformed thanks to projects supported by the Big Lottery Fund. Over the coming weeks we’ll be featuring extracts from a few of the moving and inspirational articles in the latest edition.

As communities in Belfast continue to recover from the tensions sparked by the flag protests and summer marching season, we profile one project that is working with young people on Belfast’s interfaces.

The symbols of division are all around in this part of north Belfast. A ‘peaceline’ – a fence topped with metal spikes – looms over Flax Street in the mainly nationalist Ardoyne, cutting it off from the Crumlin Road.

Just down the street clusters of young people are walking through the doors of Ardoyne Youth Club. The centre is a success story in an area that often makes the headlines for the wrong reasons. It has recently been awarded £469,845 by the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Empowering Young People programme for Breaking Through Barriers, a project helping young people at risk of falling into criminality.

The leader in charge, Thomas Turley, has personal experience of how intervention can steer a young person away from crime.

“As an 18-year-old living and growing up in Ardoyne, I got involved in some of the rioting one 12th of July. I was there, did it, got the T-shirt and paid the penalty,” he says, grimacing at the memory.

Thomas, now 30 and a dad-of-two, was given a community service order as a punishment and was referred to Ardoyne Youth Club. He went on to study youth work at university.

“I don’t want young people from his area to go down the same route that I went down,” he says.

Caitlin Ewing is one of the young people involved in the Breaking Through Barriers project.

The 16-year-old has been gaining experience in youth work at the club. Thomas says she, like the other young volunteers, is already an asset to the centre.

“Caitlin’s only 16 and her level of ability is fantastic,” he says. “As much as she thinks we’re supporting her, we’re gaining that support back.”

Thomas says he wants to continue to raise young people’s aspirations.

“Just because you live in Northern Ireland or north Belfast or Ardoyne or wherever, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be what you want to be,” he says.

If you would like to read more on this story, order a free copy of our BIG magazine by emailing our communications team at: enquiries.ni@biglotteryfund.org.uk or check out the website at http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/about-big/publications/big-magazine

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