A total of 13,000 trees have been planted – one for every young person who has taken part in the project over the past six years.
The Belfast Hills Partnership was one of 31 projects across the UK to take part in the ‘Our Bright Future’ project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, which aimed to support young people to learn more about their local green spaces and make a positive impact on both their environment and their community.
Through this project in the Belfast Hills around 13,000 young people have been engaged, around half of which was on a regular basis.
Over 30% of these young people reside in some of the most deprived communities in Northern Ireland.
Dr Lizzy Pinkerton, Scheme Manager with the Belfast Hills Partnership said: “This project has made a massive impact, both on the Belfast Hills and on the lives of the young people involved.
“Over the last six years around 30ha of practical site improvement works have been carried out; we have also seen so many of the young people grow in confidence as their environmental knowledge and skills have increased. They have improved their communication skills, leadership skills and increased their wellbeing in the process of connecting to wild places”.
Patricia Deeney has been working directly with many of the young people for almost six years now. She commented: “For me the best thing has been seeing some of our older young people go on to getting jobs within the environmental sector, assisted by our support though programmes such as our Trainee Rangers.
“To see them gain accreditation, hands on experiences, employability training etc. and using it to gain their dream job is just fantastic.”
The new woodland this scheme has created with the help of the Woodland Trust is a 9ha site at the Lisburn end of the Belfast Hills owned by Whitemountain (part of the Breedon Group).
The woodland will sequester over 3,000 tonnes of carbon and provide a rich habitat for local wildlife.
Russell Drew, Environment and Estates Manager for Whitemountain, said: “We are proud to be part of this project – just as the young people are growing up and making a positive change to their local environment, so these trees will grow up and benefit the people and wildlife surrounding the Belfast Hills.”
The ‘Our Bright Future’ Project is coming to an end, but thankfully this is not the end of environmental engagement work with local young people in the Belfast Hills.
New funding has been secured through the National Lottery Community Funds Empowering Young People grant for an exciting ‘Wild Youth’ project in partnership with Ulster Wildlife. Keep an eye out on the Belfast Hills Partnership Social Media pages for more information about ‘Wild Youth’ as it launches in January 2022. The future is indeed bright! Young