Hackney-Ireland youth exchange to share experience of conflict

Young people from The Edge in Northern Ireland.

Young people from The Edge in Northern Ireland. - Credit: Archant

An innovative exchange project teaching young people how to deal with and resolve conflict, saw them travel from Hackney to Northern Ireland to discuss living with the legacy of sectarian conflict with their peers.

The group of 16 12-17 year-olds from The Edge youth hub in Woodberry Grove, Woodberry Down were shown around Belfast and the ‘peace walls’, and took part in workshops at the Corrymeela Community, an internationally renowned centre for peace and reconciliation.

The week-long trip was part of the EDGEucation programme, which aims to gives young people the skills to express themselves, ask questions, have difficult conversations with their peers and feel empowered to bring about positive change in their communities.

They also met young people from the BOSS Project in Portadown, where young people live with the legacy of sectarian conflict, to share their experiences of living with the effects of conflict and violence.

The group were encouraged to be open and honest and explore how conflict within their neighbourhoods, schools and homes can affect themselves and their communities.

Although from different communities and backgrounds, with differing understanding of the nature of localised conflict, they identified similarities in their experiences and looked to identify coping strategies that can be developed, strengthened and shared with their peers.

The group also discussed their strengths and personal attributes, as well as looking at mental health and how they can seek support from those around them.

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Hackney resident, Jessie Asideu-Boah, 13, said the week had helped her to build up her confidence, and Felipe Sequeira, 16, from Manor House added: “I love the face that everyone shared their life stories and that everyone listened to each other.”

Cllr Antoinette Bramble, the council’s cabinet member for education said: “Hackney is a much safer place to grow up, but we know there are still some young people who will be affected by violent crime and we aim to do all we can to support them.

“Through projects like this we can help young people to see the positive effects they can have on their communities, while giving them the skills that can help them better deal with the conflict that can sometimes occur around them.”

A meeting with community leaders from all sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland, including Colin McCusker, the mayor of Craigavon, Brid Rogers, SDLP MP and Darryl Hewitt, from the Portadown Orange Order was also on the agenda.

In August, a group of young people from Portadown will be welcomed to Hackney for the second leg of the exchange.

Young Hackney is working with local partners, Manor House Development Trust, Well London and Genesis Homes on the joint-funded exchange.

EDGEucation takes place on Thursday evenings 6.00-8.30 pm, at Young Hackney’s The Edge Youth Hub.

Call 020 8356 1063 for more information.