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More young people transforming their lives thanks to National Lottery funding

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Northern Ireland
Empowering Young People
Release date:
14 3 2017

Four projects working with young people across Northern Ireland are celebrating today after being awarded a total of £2,327,228 of National Lottery funding.

The groups provide a range of support for young people, including those affected by issues including learning disabilities, alcohol and antisocial behaviour, thanks to money received from the Big Lottery Fund’s Empowering Young People programme.

Active Communities Network’s GOALS project (Generating Opportunities and Learning through Sport) received £577,428 for a project working with at-risk young people aged 12 to 21 in the Shankill, Falls and Springfield areas of north and west Belfast. The four year project uses sport to engage young people in personal development activities and get them ready for employment and learning.

It is also working on the street to address problems with alcohol and antisocial behaviour by providing alternative activities including team building, sports, fitness and dance. The young people are organising sport and festival events for their communities as well as acting as mentors to other young people.

Jim Donnelly, Active Communities Network head of programmes for Northern Ireland said: “The young people in our youth committee identified the biggest issues they face, including the misuse of drugs and alcohol, mental health problems, a sense of hopelessness and a lack of expectation that they can achieve something positive. If the young people from the GOALS project are successful participants then they will become role models in their communities so their peers can believe they too can achieve and that cycle of hopelessness can be broken.”

Chris* from west Belfast (not his real name) is one of those who helped develop the project. Addiction, depression and a sense of hopelessness meant the 22-year-old spiralled into despair until he finally tried to take his life in his late teens. Getting involved in the Active Communities Network helped him to rebuild his life.

“My story isn’t unique. I got into trouble with the police and at school. I left with no qualifications and no idea where I was going. I got involved in anti-social activities when I was about 16 and the next four years were the lowest of my life. Everything just started going round and round in my head. It’s like living in a shell and not being able to get out. It was terrifying,” he said.

“I became suicidal in the end and things only started to change when I got involved again in sport through a youth organisation but even then it took a while before I started to see a bit of hope in my life again.

“The Active Communities Network helped me get accreditation for sport by working with local kids. Now I have an OCN Level 2, Maths, English and IT Essentials Skills. I’ve lost weight and I want to be as a personal trainer. I’ve never felt as well. My ambition is to become a youth worker and help young people like myself. I want young people to enjoy their childhood and teenage years and to come out of those years as different as possible to how I did. I lost that time. An earlier intervention would have saved me.”

The other projects being awarded funding today are:

Enable NI’s five-year We Are IncredABLE project, which received £551,179. It provides opportunities for young people aged 18-25 with learning disabilities who are leaving or about to leave school from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust area. It is supporting them to develop friendships, improve confidence, increase independence and learn daily living skills.

MindWise New Vision’s four year Linked-In Project, which received £599,134. It is supporting young people aged 13-25 from Belfast, Antrim and Derry/Londonderry after they have been arrested and released from police custody. Young people are being supported to reduce the risk of re-offending by developing a plan to address their needs, including improving life skills, attending counselling or addiction services, volunteering and providing peer support.

BEAM Creative Network (Bardic Education Arts and Media) received £599,487 for the No Limits project which is supporting young people aged 14-20 with mild to moderate learning disabilities including for example Asperger’s, autism and dyslexia. The four-year project offers tailored support using creative arts as well as work experience to help the young people prepare for the next stage of their lives.

Julie Harrison, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “I am delighted to announce these grants under the Empowering Young People programme and I want to say thanks to all the National Lottery players who have helped make this possible.

“We want to fund great projects that put young people in the lead in increasing their skills and confidence, and support them to have stronger relationships so they can cope better with the challenges they face and reach their potential. We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact these projects will make for many young people across Northern Ireland.”

More information about the Empowering Young People funding programme can be found on our website, www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/northernireland

For press enquiries call Lucy Gollogly or Rachel Skinner

Press Office: 02890 551 432 or 02890 551 450
Out of hours media contact: 07580 811135 or 0774 7532 846

Website:   http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/northernireland
Twitter:    @BIGNIonline #BigLottery
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BigLotteryFundNI

Notes to Editors:

  • The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
  • Since June 2004 we have awarded over £6.5 billion to projects that make a difference to people and communities in need, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £35 billion has been raised and more than 490,000 grants awarded.