A CROSS-COMMUNITY group working to improve relations between communities at the peaceline between the Springfield Road and Woodvale areas has received nearly half a million pounds in funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

Forthspring Inter-Community Group, which is based on the Springfield Road, has been awarded a grant of £458,578 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Empowering Young People programme which supports young people at risk, including those who have disengaged from education, are involved in crime or are living in care.

The organisation, based in a community centre on the peace line between the Woodvale and Springfield areas, will use the grant to support disadvantaged young people from both sides of the community, running a range of activities and services to help improve their lives, increase opportunities and build mutual understanding and tolerance.

Project workers will work with young people on the streets encouraging them to engage in educational, skills and recreational courses. They will also set up a young people’s steering group to debate and implement youth-led ideas, looking at innovative ways of managing a youth drop-in centre.

The centre will provide access to a range of courses as well as practical advice on issues such as housing, health, social services, training and employment.

“Our premises are unique because the peace line in this area actually runs right through our building on the Springfield Road,” said Director Maura Moore.

“We run activities in our centre, but this funding will be used to support the harder-to-reach young people who aren’t involved in community activities and we will be going out on to the streets to meet with them there. These young people have become disengaged because this is an area of disadvantage, with low educational attainment and limited employment opportunities.

“Take all those factors and combine them with the fact that this is an interface area and you can clearly see why some young people feel disinterested, disillusioned and unsupported in knowing how to access education or make improvements to their lives. Some of these young people have so few expectations for their own lives because they haven’t received the emotional and practical tools, support and encouragement necessary. They have underachieved at primary school and moved to secondary school maybe still unable to read or write. They are born into a culture of low attainment.”

The centre also provides one-to-one support and mentoring services.

“We will encourage responsible citizenship through participation in programmes tailored to the young people’s specific needs and interests,” continued Maura.

“Forthspring will engage with all relevant statutory agencies as well as guide participants to avail of opportunities through local training providers.  Our young people’s steering group will have a very valuable input into the services we offer. This group will be responsible for advising on what’s working, what isn’t and how best to effect the necessary changes.  By giving them that trust and responsibility we are hoping to develop the leaders of the future and offering our young people the chance to make a difference to their own lives and consequently to participate fully and positively in our core economy.”