FOURTEEN young people aged 14–18 from Brownlow, Tartaraghan and Scotch Street took part in the Northern Ireland/England Intercultural Youth Exchange Programme with their peers from Hartley Youth & Community Centre, East Ham, Newham, London.
The Northern Ireland Group was made up of SELB Brownlow Area Youth Project, the Youth Forum and the SELB Craigavon Loughshore Youth Initiative.
These young people represented the two main Northern Ireland cultural traditions from urban and rural backgrounds.
The Northern Ireland Group were hosted by the London Youth Group for nine days at their Hartley Youth & Community Centre premises in East Ham, Newham last year.
The reciprocal return stage of the NI/London Intercultural Youth Exchange Programme took place at Brownlow Resource Centre, Craigavon and St Paul’s Church of Ireland Parish Hall, Tartaraghan from last month.
Twenty-eight young people from city, urban and rural perspectives engaged with each other for the duration of the intercultural programme in London and Northern Ireland. The young people came from Christian, Muslim and non religious identities.
The main focus of the project was to create opportunities where the young people could develop friendships and look at differences to understand the similarities they have in common through a creative, fun and integrated programme
It was commented by many that it was difficult to identify the youth groups within the NI/London Youth Exchange Project as the young people collectively became one group based on respect and friendship for each other.
Christine Hobson, Birches Youth Club said: “Through this experience I have personally developed insight and understanding of many different cultures and backgrounds, being open minded to everyone’s views and opinions.”
Kirsty McMullan said: “I was fortunate enough to be a member of the Northern Ireland/London Youth Exchange Programme and well what an experience. I learned a lot about different cultures and more importantly I made life long friends.”
These kind of sentiments were expressed by the 28 young people at the celebration and presentation event at Tartaraghan Parish Hall attended by the Craigavon Deputy Mayor Mr Kieran Corr, Rev David Hilliard, parents, friends and members of St Paul’s Vestry Committee to mark the end of the life-changing programme.
The Northern Ireland/London Intercultural Youth Exchange Project Co-ordinators Mr Terry McCollum of Brownlow Area Youth Project and Larry Hamilton, Craigavon Loughshore Youth Initiative (both SELB Youth Workers) extend their gratitude to everyone who contributed and helped in any way to make the Northern Ireland/London Intercultural Youth Exchange Project an overwhelming success.
They would also like to acknowledge the immense contribution of the Northern Ireland Youth Group in particular for working towards the implementation of hosting their peers from London.
Their efforts were well rewarded with the great outcomes and positive feedback from the London Youth Group and their leaders.
Finally, Larry and Terry would like to acknowledge the amazing input and commitment from Bethany Ebro, of Scotch Street Youth Club, Jonny Ritchie, Birches Youth Club, and Laura Chambers for their tremendous help and support for the duration of the whole Northern Ireland/London Youth Exchange Project.