Many of our participants see each other all the time. They talk online daily and hangout whenever they can. This isn’t possible for all of our participants, however, given the nature of Belfast and the many ‘peace walls’ that physically divide the city. In this week’s blog we see how our participants were given the opportunity to see each other, many for the first time since Camp Alpha 2015.
Last summer, more than 100 Summer Camps took place throughout Northern Ireland with the shared aim of bringing together young people from different areas, backgrounds, traditions, and abilities to help build connections and understanding across the community. Funded by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister’s (OFMDFM) Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) strategy, these camps were spread across the country, and PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland was fortunate enough to be offered one of those projects. Both the Belfast Interface Games and Camp Alpha 2015, were funded by the T:BUC strategy, with over 200 participants involved in our summer interventions.
Last weekend, 26 of our participants were invited to attend a “T:BUC Summer Camp Reunion” in the SSE Arena, Belfast. The reunion event aimed to reinforce the positive experience of the summer camps, strengthen the friendships participants have developed, encourage further engagement, and celebrate. At the event, our young people were given a tour of the wonderful “W5” Interactive Discovery Centre, before entering the arena itself where we were greeted by local radio star, Pete Snodden. We heard from local sporting stars Craig Gilroy from Ulster Rugby, Adam Keefe from Belfast Giants, and local Olympic-medal winning boxers Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes. They all talked about facing diversity in their sports and how working with others has helped to make them better; a story that many of our participants were able to connect with.
It was a great day for all, which ended nicely with good news from Junior Minister, Jennifer McCann: there will be funding for more Summer Camps in 2016! Check out a snippet of the day from Local Coordinator, Joanne Fitzpatrick in her vlog below.