An initiative that uses sport to connect young people with training support has been praised for its role in reducing tensions and boosting work skills in Carrickfergus.
The one-year Sport Changes Life Peace Impact Project, supported by the International Fund for Ireland, has engaged over 80 young people in mentoring activities and accredited training delivered in partnership with the Ulster University.
At a presentation event, more than 30 participants received certificates for completing programmes linked to peace building and employment.
The project, which uses the successful eHoops model, has assisted more than 40% of those participants who are seeking work to secure jobs and has built new relationships within and between communities and with the PSNI.
Billy Gamble, International Fund for Ireland board member, said: “Our congratulations go to all who participated in this timely and practical project. Sport Changes Life is a powerful example of how positive dialogue and engagement can make a real difference and offer positive alternatives for those involved. It is opening new pathways to training and employment and engaging with young people that are vulnerable or at risk.
“The reality is that young people in many areas across Northern Ireland are affected by issues such as drugs, alcohol and potential involvement in criminal activities. In less than a year, this project has yielded impressive results. The potential for violence has been reduced and many participants are finding employment and positive leadership roles in their community. Projects like this are critical and build momentum for positive change, stability and prosperity.”
Sport Changes Life operates across Carrickfergus and Greenisland with groups in the latter due to complete training courses in June.
Gareth Maguire, CEO and co-founder of Sport Changes Life, said: “We know that young people in the area are faced with difficult and complex pressures and often believe that opportunities are limited. This project is about giving them access to new skills and opportunities, empowering them to make better choices and take control of their own lives. Once trust is established our experience is communities enthusiastically embrace opportunities to improve inter and intra community relationships and this is done through arguably their greatest assets, their youth.
“The Carrickfergus group is the first group to gain certificates through the project and it will prove to be a valuable addition, not only to participants but also to their communities. It has motivated many to look at other options and offered a sense of self-belief. It is pleasing to see individuals gain a better understanding of their own ability and of the role they can play in the community.”
The project secured £105,744 through the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Impact Programme which supports community efforts to address sensitive, complex and challenging issues within areas where there have been low levels of engagement in peace building.