(European PSEP grant aided projects, Belfast and Strangford, supported by Youth Worker and Community Outreach Worker).
The PSEP funding is being used to fund two projects which are in some ways separate but as part of the general development plan for Harmony Community Trust (HCT) are interconnected. Both can come under the term Community Outreach, though within our own terminology this title is given to the developmental work that we are doing in South Down, and the Greater Belfast area work is termed Youth Programme to distinguish it from our childrens' and adult programmes there.
The aim of the Youth programme is to expand and develop the community relations and reconciliation programmes of HCT to include and meet the specific needs of disadvantaged and marginalised young people in the 14 to 21 age range. The Youth Worker funded through the PSEPII funds is based in Belfast, and concentrates on community groups and young people from the Greater Belfast area including North Down and Ards.
The aim of the Community Outreach programme is to expand and develop the work of HCT into South Down, particularly targeting community groups, children, young people and adults in rural areas. As with all HCT programmes we aim to recruit from marginalised and disadvantaged sections of the community. As this has been a new area for us we have not sub-divided the programmes into Children, Youth and Adults as has happened in Belfast, though obviously the programmes offered vary according to the ages and needs of the specific groups. The Community Outreach Worker funded by PSEPII is based at Strangford.
During the first year of the projects we have made contacts with a large number of other organisations working within the field, and made an audit of need, and areas in which HCT could usefully co-operate or develop programmes. For the Belfast Youth Project we consulted with young people already involved in HCT to see how they felt the programmes could be developed and improved.
The Results have been a busy year of programmes, some more successful than others, but all providing us with information that can be used to develop the second and third year of activities. One thing that has been noteworthy has been the need to adopt a very different approach in the rural areas of South Down to that which has been developed over the years in Greater Belfast. There is not the same structure or network of Community Groups, or youth clubs with paid workers, nor are there the same opportunities for the children and young people, and transport is a real problem for cross community work. In other words we have found that the need for the support of an organisation such as HCT is in some ways greater than it is in Belfast. There has been a need to forge genuine cross community links, and develop anti-sectarian programmes, and this past summer, with its heightened tensions and some gruesome local attacks, have not made this any easier, both in the urban and rural areas. However we have found that the problems associated with gender issues, language, drugs and alcohol are ones that need to be addressed urgently in the coming year.
In Belfast we have found that we need to target young people who are not included in existing cross community and/or social education programmes for one reason or another: social or physical isolation, behaviour, educational or economic constraints. However in successfully targeting young people in this category we have run into other problems. As with the South Down young people, anti-social attitudes and behaviour cross sectarian boundaries, and the worker and volunteers involved in the various activities have found these problems much more difficult to cope with than Catholic Protestant issues.
Programmes during the year have included 7 day residentials and weekends at Glebe House and other centres including cross border visits, non-residential evening and day activities, work study camps and training in a variety of skills.
In 1996-97, involved in the year's programme for Belfast, there were 3 groups each with 20-24, 13-16 year olds, a break-away group for 16-21 year olds with special learning needs, and a personal development group for 16 to 25 year olds. There were also one off activities for selected groups.
In South Down there have been 4 children's groups, each with 24-30 children aged 8 to 14, and one youth group ages 13 to 16. There has also been a lot of work involved in contacting parents and new groups for developing the 1997-98 programmes.
We are in the middle of evaluating the 1996-97 programme and planning for next year's activities. At the moment, for both Belfast and South Down young people, we are anticipating more issue based workshops and programmes, including a youth conference. We are also hoping to develop a European Exchange for these young people. We also want to put an emphasis on providing opportunities for the young people to volunteer.
For South Down, we will be concentrating on developing cross community links between disadvantaged and isolated groups in the area, offering them programmes for children, youth and/or adults, responding to the expressed needs of the groups themselves. Rather than a year's programme, which is what we traditionally offer to paired community groups in Belfast, we feel that shorter, faster experiences and activities might be more appropriate for small rural groups, in the first instance, leading on to more ambitious programmes later.
The PSEPII funding is being used to fund the salaries of three workers, and contribute towards their administrative expenses. The workers concerned are the Community Outreach and Youth Worker already mentioned and an Administrative Assistant based in Strangford. This administrative back-up is vital to the success of the project as it enables the project workers to be programme rather then office orientated, and it has also given HCT in general a sounder administrative base.
The benefits of the PSEPII funds have been enormous for HCT.
They have enabled us to realise two dreams, featuring in our development
plan for the past 5-8 years, namely, the development of our Youth
Work Programmes with 14-21 year olds and to expand our work beyond
the limits of Greater Belfast into South Down. It has been particularly
valuable that we have been able to expand the work in the Down
area. Glebe House has been located in the district for 22 years,
and is the headquarters for HCT. It is important that we should
be involved with our local area as well as Belfast. Sectarianism
and conflict are not restricted to the urban areas, and neither
are the problems of marginalised and disadvantaged young people.