A cross-community group in County Derry has received a funding boost to continue their support of disengaged youths within their local communities amidst the current pandemic.
Maghera Cross Community Link has received £35,430 as part of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI)'s latest support package. It is one of five organisations awarded funding across the country.
The group is one of a number who are supported under the IFI's Personal Youth Development Programme (PYDP), which targets young people in deprived areas who may become involved in criminal activity.
The programme typically engages with people from challenging family backgrounds, are vulnerable to paramilitary recruitment , have poor mental health, have experienced substance abuse of have left the education system.
Paddy Harte, IFI Chairperson, said the organisation has had to adapt.
“In recent months our projects have managed to respond and adapt to provide innovative solutions for young people,” he said.
“In these truly challenging times, the IFI’s ongoing support has helped foster community spirit and leadership.
“People and communities have united like never before. Young people involved in our PYDP projects have been able to continue their development with over 500 classes delivered online and 147 gaining new qualifications during lockdown.
“Over 5,000 food parcels were delivered to the most vulnerable and over 4,200 items of PPE gear were produced and delivered by PYDP projects and partners.
“Only now are we seeing the true impact of Covid- 19 on our young people. Lockdown has forced many to feel more isolated than ever bringing mental health issues to the fore.
“Positive engagement and support is vital to enable younger generations to become equipped with the confidence and necessary tools to embrace a new society post coronavirus.”
Participants in the Maghera project have faced challenges such as loneliness, mental health issues, food poverty and a lack of daily routine.
One participant said the programme had helped him build his confidence.
“When I joined,I had no qualifications and I didn't know how to read or write,” he said.
“I have a difficult home life due to addictions. The programme has helped build my confidence a lot.
“I always wanted to work in security and through the Link I gained my SIA Door supervision licence and have a job as door security at a local hotel.
“Three years ago I felt I had no positive future but this programme has completely changed my life.”
Heather Boyd, who manages Maghera Cross Community Link, said ongoing community engagement was vital.
“Bringing the community together has kept people engaged in difficult times,” she said.
“Many of our young people have volunteered at the local foodbank, delivered flowers to the elderly and even taken part in weekly online challenges at home.
“Maghera is a divided community by an invisible interface, the programme has helped to break down some of these barriers.
“The local community has seen the difference the programme has made to the lives of the young people.
“Over the last three years, we have achieved a lot - 13 have gained employment whilst 11 have enrolled in further education.”
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