North Belfast youth find common ground in Ambassadors programme Posted on 29 March 2024

A 12-week cross-community initiative in north Belfast supported by Clanmil Housing is helping to build positive relationships between young people.

The Young Ambassadors programme is run by Sport Changes Life and is aimed at participants aged between 12 and 14. It has been delivered to 24 young people from the Ardoyne and Shankill areas who make up the R-City Youth Project. A further 24 young people from John Paul Youth Club, Ardoyne and Hammer Youth Club in the Shankill area are participating in programmes planned for April until June.

The Young Ambassadors programme includes icebreakers, team building and multi-sports activities to help increase the confidence of the participants and build positive relationships.  Workshops focusing on good relations, personal development, and active citizenship are also an important part of each session.

The project is being funded through the Department for Communities and the NI Housing Executive’s ‘Housing for All’ initiative and is part of Clanmil’s good relations Plan for Felden, Newtownabbey.

Gerard Rosato, Clanmil Community Investment Officer said:

“In developing good relations programmes, we look for opportunities where young people who mightn’t usually spend time with their peers in other communities can find common ground in a relaxed, supportive setting. Initiatives like this one help to boost confidence and encourage goal setting, and generate discussions about identity, community, and respect, which are important in strengthening communities and community safety.  We are grateful to Sport Changes Life and our community partners for delivering the programme, and we look forward to welcoming the next group of participants.”

Tanisha Watson, who is one of those taking part, said she is really enjoying the weekly programme: “I like the fact that you get to be yourself here and you don’t get judged. It’s great to meet other young people and the games are brilliant.”

Meabh Canavan, another participant added: "It’s really good because it’s bringing two communities together. It’s a friendly atmosphere and that makes it easier to talk to people we don’t know.”

Ambassadors in the Heuben Centre Belfast
Young people taking part in the Ambassadors programme at the Heuben Centre with Gerard Rosato, Clanmil and Aaron Harris, Sport Changes Life 

Colin McIlwaine, Community Development Manager with Sport Changes Life said:

“At Sport Changes Life, our main aim is to raise the aspirations of young people through sport. We’ve found that participants respond well to the sessions as they take place in a relaxed environment with the young people taking part in team building and multi-sport activities. Additionally, through bespoke workshops based around good relations we are actively promoting inclusion, diversity and respect whist addressing other sensitive issues which will help the young people taking part to become positive role models and ambassadors in their local community. The programme will include the young people participating in a social action plan that will include inter-generational activities with local nursing homes.”

About the NI Executive Together: Building A United Community Strategy

The programme is supported through the NI Executive Together: Building A United Community Strategy, which reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society. The Felden shared housing development is also supported by the Department for Communities and the NI Housing Executive. £6.03m funding was invested in the scheme’s development and the roll out of the associated five-year good relations Plan.

The ‘Housing for All’ Shared Housing Programme has its origins in the NI Executive Together: Building a United Community Strategy which reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society. Through its Newtownabbey based Advisory Groups, Clanmil works to develop and deliver the Felden’ Good Relations Plans’. 

Felden is a shared housing development in Newtownabbey which received funding of £995,350 for the implementation of a five-year good relations Plan to support Good Relations and Community Development projects within a 5-mile radius of the Felden development. It was established in 2016 as part of the NI Executive Together: Building A United Community Strategy.