Our young leaders offer signs of hope for all our futures

We are role models for our children and grandchildren, said one participant on a PEACE IV project.

Young people offer messages of hope

We are role models for our children and grandchildren, said one participant on a PEACE IV project.

The legacy we are leaving for our children and their children, of course, depends on what we teach them and what we encourage them to experience.

How the EU PEACE IV programme has affected this city and district over the last four years can only really be measured over time, as children and young people grow and mature – but if what we have witnessed is anything to go by, its impact will be transformational.

Piping tutor Darren Milligan with Ben Hughes-Hynds who is taking part in a tin whistle and piping workshop in Newbuildings Youth and Community Centre organised by the NW Cultural Partnership and funded by PEACE IV with Andrew Lynch, tutor. Picture Martin McKeown.

It has been my privilege to chair the PEACE IV Partnership overseeing the delivery of the PEACE IV Programme.

What we have seen is impressive, empathetic, ambitious, energetic, and determined delivery – by the staff of the PEACE IV Partnership, by the projects and, most importantly, by the young people and participants.

In the last four years we have had the first ever summer schemes to cross an interface.

The young people who at the start were bussed across the interface ended up walking to and through each other’s areas.

St Patrick’s Day was celebrated in many mainly unionist areas while Ulster Scots activities, piping, drumming and dancing, were also enjoyed in many mainly nationalist ones.

Thousands of people from all sides of the community came together for hundreds of events, and they enjoyed them. In one project, 35 young people from Strabane Derry/Londonderry and Donegal took part in a special initiative – to start with they were terrified, said one youth worker…but the journey they have been on has been incredible to now see their confidence, skills, and ability to speak out.

Another project, with over 200 young people from Derry City and Strabane District and Donegal, decided to take over the streets with performance and art. Self-confidence and being able to go anywhere were the themes of the project.

We constantly wove this narrative through all the art forms…reclaiming our streets, our town…Make this town yours… stamp your identity on it…have courage and walk with your head held high, said one of the activists.

In yet another project over 800 children were taught about their own and other cultures.

By encouraging children to experience different cultures in a positive, creative and fun way, they became more open to engaging in a range of activities without any preconceptions or misconceptions, said one project leader.

We perhaps need to be better at involving the older generation – those who are caught and trapped in old stories, said one young participant.

Nearly 7,000 people of all ages and backgrounds have been directly involved and many more indirectly by attending events.

Around 90% say they respect their own culture and identity more and have more respect also for the culture and identity of others.

People, including our young people, are now better equipped to stand up to racism and sectarianism regardless of background or belief.

This is across the community. The programme engaged many more people from the Protestant and Unionist minority than some would credit – while the 2011 Census indicated 25% of people in the district were brought up from a Protestant background, 40% of the PEACE IV Programme’s 7,000 participants were brought up as Protestant.

A few words in an article cannot do justice to the thousands of hours delivered; or the thousands of people who benefited and whose lives will never be the same as a result.

Because of funding from the EU PEACE IV Programme this city and district has more role models, more young people skilled and experienced to be leaders in the future.

Our young people can reach higher than they think because they are not yet fully grown.

Our job, as parents, educators, and supporters, is to help them believe in themselves and understand that they can reach higher still as they grow and do more with their skills and experience, so that unlike previous generations this generation of young leaders can do better by all, for all.

Alisom Wallace is chair of the Derry City and Strabane District Peace IV Partnership