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Project Title:NICHS: Community Partnership Project
Contact:William Pegg
Address:NI Children's Holiday Scheme
547 Antrim Road
BT15 3BU
Telephone:01232 370373


The PSEPII funds have provided funding for a Project Manager and a Youth Worker. In addition they have provided funding for programme activities and mileage allowance for the Project Manager.

The aim of the project is not to create a dependency on a team of reconciliation 'experts' from outside. Instead the project works in partnership with community leaders interested in establishing sustainable and meaningful cross community/cross border programmes that address sectarianism. The project is building lasting relationships at an individual, community and organisational level. Such empowerment helps to create strong indigenous leadership. The project is encouraging communities to take ownership of cross community and cross border work. These community roots are essential in order to sustain tripartite partnerships. There are two community leaders from each group. Participants are marginalised communities from Belfast, Omagh and Tandragee. Northern Ireland groups are from adjacent Protestant and Catholic communities. In these areas there are few areas of sustainable cross community initiatives. Each group has an even balance of Protestants and Catholics. The young people are between 14 and 17 years old. Each Northern Ireland group has a partner from the Republic of Ireland. They are marginalised communities in Dublin and Inniskeen in Monaghan. The programme will last for three years. The project begins with single identity work and then confidence building to establish trust between the participants. This includes social activities, outdoor education and prejudice awareness exercises. Activities such as canoeing and environmental projects encourage co-operation and team work. Bowling and ice-skating are enjoyable social activities that help to relax participants.

A drama project and a tradition hard skills programme provides an opportunity to acquire new life skills and enhance employment prospects. Group sessions help to build up trust, co-operation, empathy and positive regard. By using and practising these group skills, participants address issues of sectarianism, discrimination and prejudice in a safe and supportive environment. This group process encourages awareness, understanding and acceptance of the other group's cultural, religious and political traditions. Leaders and participants have considerable input in the design, implementation and evaluation of their programme. Health education and life skills make participants more aware of their responsibilities in relation to sexual behaviour, substance abuse, alcohol abuse and crime avoidance.

Employment Skills:
NICHS training in cross community and peer education means participants have a good foundation for entering youth work, child care, cross community or cross border work. The drama project provides a foundation for working in the performing arts, media or entertainment field. Fund raising encourages problem solving, teamwork and an understanding of basic accounts. The traditional craft skills programme will give participants an opportunity to learn the basic skills of Basket Weaving, French Polishing and Gilding. Many of the skills learned are useful for later employment.

Community Ownership:
The project encourages parents and community leaders to participate in the programme. Parents home host exchanges and some participate as voluntary youth workers. They help to organise and support cross community fund raising events. Such co-operation is in contrast to the isolation and separation often experienced between certain communities on this island. It provides a positive model for others to follow. The programme will also allow us to evaluate a cross community/cross border model that seeks to provide a body of theoretical and practical knowledge in dealing with division and sectarianism at both rural and urban interfaces. A manual and any research findings will be available for practitioners and community leaders.

The way forward:
The organisation gains support for the Community Partnership from various communities and organisations. Such support and networking enable the partnership team to offer a crucial, exiting and rewarding experience to all those people its work influences. Together Unionist and Nationalist are all building sustainable community partnerships that are working together to try and overcome common social problems and find acceptable compromises to political and cultural differences. Such mutual understanding provides a greater appreciation of cultural diversity and the need to accept those diversities in order to establish the principles of pluralism. Without this courage and commitment there would be no inclusive peace process at a grass roots level. It is this foundation that creates the right environment for sustainable peace.

It will take time for trust and forgiveness to develop, time for sectarian attitudes to change. I feel we have begun a journey based on the principles of pluralism and partnership. There is an old Chinese proverb that says a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step. Hopefully these steps we are taking together will lead to an island were both traditions can live together in acceptance, peace and prosperity.

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