CATHERINE Couvert moved to Ireland from France in 1981 with the intention of staying for just one year, but almost immediately met some people worth staying for.
Having made Belfast her home, she had roles in a variety of community organisations in the city over the years.
Currently, she is a Communications Worker at Ardoyne Youth Enterprise (AYE), a group that manages youth and community development and good relations initiatives in North Belfast.
Since taking up the post last July, Catherine has played an important role in facilitating and highlighting the positive community work that happens in Ardoyne and beyond – an opportunity she says she has relished.
“Since getting into this job it has been really exciting because I have been able to get back to grassroots community work,” she enthuses.
“A lot of the work I do has been about human rights, the community and positive change. Gay rights, women’s rights, migrant rights, and community work are things that are very important to me.”
She continued: “The work I do here is about trying to fit into the work that the youth team does. They do outreach work, capacity building, and they work to promote diversity and good relations.
“A lot of the work is about connecting young people to the services and groups in the area. I would maintain the social media, which keeps people up to date with what we do, but a lot of it is about what’s going on in the area in places like the youth clubs, and tells young people what work opportunities and training opportunities are available for them. “An important part of our job is giving young people a voice and trying to find out what their issues are.”
Ardoyne has had its share of trouble, but Catherine says that AYE are working tirelessly to promote a “positive self image” for the area.
“My job is about generating good news stories and events,” she explains.
“As you know, the temptation is always there, when the news are talking about Ardoyne they talk about trouble, and it’s good to talk about those things because we need to address those issues, but we also need to remember that most young people are actually not in trouble.
“Their main issues might be that they do not feel good about themselves, depression, a lack of hope for their own future. We try to develop ideas about good role models and community spirit.
“We have this message about ‘I love North Belfast’ and ‘I love Ardoyne’, which is one of the hashtags that we have on social media, but we also have t-shirts that we try to get local community represent-atives to wear.”
She continued: “My job is all of those things and more. It’s a lovely job and I really, really like it. It’s good to see young people who are really proud of what they have achieved.
“From our point of view we’re really pleased that we have increased the positive media coverage about the area, and we have seen that with other places.
“We have seen it with R-City, Ardoyne Youth Club, and all of the other community groups that do brilliant work in the area.”