Over the last four years the EU funded ‘YouthPact’ project – of which NYCI was a partner – has been busy supporting and working with eleven Children and Young People projects across Northern Ireland and the border regions of Ireland.
Projects worked with young people aged between 14-24 years who were: disadvantaged, excluded or marginalised; had deep social and emotional needs; and who had been at risk of becoming involved in anti-social behaviour, violence or dissident activity.
Despite living the majority of their lives in ‘peace’, these young people described how they felt both the visible and invisible ripple effects of the conflict in their everyday lives.
The young people participated in programmes to develop their personal skills, respect for diversity and their role in shaping their communities and society.
The role of YouthPact was to work with these youth work projects to help create and run these programmes, helping them to boost their impact, quality and success rate in working for, and with, young people towards peace. The aim of the work was to promote and develop a high-quality youth work approach that can generate the best outcomes for children and young people and their communities.
YouthPact provided a series of activities to support, train, advise and signpost youth work staff from the delivery projects over four years.
Support included 232 support and development meetings; 51 partnership-specific workshops and 86 training events with themes from ‘Border lives’, to ‘mentoring’ through to ‘peacebuilding resources for youth work’ and ‘work with young men’.
All twelve projects, including YouthPact, were funded under the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding for these projects was provided by the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Ireland.
The Children and Young People element of the PEACE IV Programme was designed to enhance the capacity of young people to form positive and effective relationships with others of a different background and make a positive contribution to building a cohesive society.
The YouthPact partnership of Co-operation Ireland, Ulster University, National Youth Council of Ireland and POBAL (built on a long history of cross-border work, community relations work and training) were suitably placed to provide support and resources needed by youth workers on the ground, as noted by two youth workers surveyed as part of the YouthPact evaluation:
“YouthPact had really helpful and innovative; that had in-depth knowledge of working with young people and their communities….” (YW16)
“YouthPact staff have been very supportive. Whilst providing training, they always have provided intense support, guidance and follow-ups to these.” (YW17)
Minister for the Economy NI, Gordon Lyons, said: “YouthPact has played a crucial role in the success of Peace4Youth overall, adding significant value to the delivery and to the legacy of knowledge and resources created through the programme. The support YouthPact provided to each of the projects and their youth workers, helped to build their capabilities which provide an excellent basis for the next children and young people programme.”
Minister for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman said: “The projects supported by YouthPact over the past 4 years have made a real and measurable difference in the lives of the young people who have participated in them. The support and guidance provided by YouthPact to these projects has played a critical role in achieving that impact and contributing to the effectiveness of the projects. I would therefore like to acknowledge YouthPact for its tremendous work.”
Underlining the importance of the work supported by YouthPact Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive of the SEUPB said: “Trauma is passed on from generation to generation, often without any awareness, and even though they were not alive to experience it, many young people have been deeply affected by our troubled past in a variety of ways, which can limit their potential. In recognition of this the EU PEACE IV Programme funded a number of projects specifically designed to support those vulnerable children and young people who often feel marginalised from the rest of society.
“YouthPact was created to help support and enrich the work of the funded projects by co-ordinating a series of training events and seminars that helped to facilitate best practice among those providing the services. This support has made a real impact and brought out the core strengths of all the organisations delivering these EU-funded projects. I would like to congratulate the lead partner and all of the project partners involved for their hard work and dedication over the past four years.”
Peter Sheridan, Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland, said: “I want to pay tribute to everyone who worked on the YouthPact programme over the last four years. Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe so it is imperative we work to offer our young people every opportunity to fulfil their potential, which will have a positive affect not only on their own lives but also on wider efforts to build reconciliation across the island.
YouthPact operated in challenging circumstances where the opportunity for face-to-face engagement was curtailed so I want to acknowledge the work of the staff whose mitigation ensured the high quality of delivery.
I would also like to put on record my thanks to the partner organisations on the project and look forward to more collaboration in the future.”