Young ‘Ambassadors’ Lead The Way In Newtownabbey With Sport Changes Life

April 11th, 2022 | NEWS

A group of 9- to 15-year-olds from across Newtownabbey have been learning about online safety, good relations and other issues affecting young people while playing team sports like basketball and hockey in a 10-week ‘Ambassadors’ programme.

This initiative is being delivered by Sport Changes Life in partnership with Clanmil and brings together young people from Felden, Bawnmore, White City, Longlands and Rathcoole to take part in the cross-community programme at the Valley Leisure Centre.

The after-school sessions are based on Sport Changes Life’s Honour Roll Programme where young people take part in a variety of sports including football, basketball and hockey. They also participate in workshop discussions about good relations, peer pressure, bullying, staying safe online, goal setting and more.

Colin McIlwaine from Sport Changes Life is running the programme along with coaches Scott Keatley and Grace Kennedy.

He said:

“The young people taking part in the sessions are really enjoying the experience and we are so delighted to have the support of Clanmil to bring the project to Newtownabbey. As a foundation we pride ourselves on raising the aspirations of young people through sport, and the feedback we’ve had so far has been very positive and it’s really encouraging for us to see these young people coming together to experience new sports and develop their self-confidence over the duration of the programme.”

Gerard Rosato, Community Cohesion Officer at Clanmil added:

“The programme is allowing young people from Felden and surrounding neighbourhoods to come together to actively participate in playing new sports such as hockey and basketball. They are also given the opportunity to engage in workshops that focus on issues that affect them in their daily lives such as bullying, staying safe online and what good relations and positive citizenship means. But above all young people having fun and socializing with their peers is key to the success of the initiative. Our expectation is that the young people who complete the 10-week programme will become ambassadors in their neighbourhoods and promote the good relations ethos among their friends and family members.”

Ashton (11), from White City said: ‘’I didn’t know anyone on the programme to start with, but I have now met some kids who go to my school. I now look forward to going to the sports each week.”

Aimee (10) from Felden, described her experience:

‘’I love going out on these fun trips as I get to play with all different kids and make lots of new friends. It’s great fun as there is always something exciting for us to do.’’

Aimee’s 12-year-old sister Chloe added:

“The sporting programme is great, and everyone is so nice and friendly. We get to have lots of new experiences that we wouldn’t normally.’’

The Newtownabbey programme started on 25th January and will run until 29th March. Clanmil Housing has been working with Sport Changes Life to deliver similar projects to young people in Belfast and Newcastle.

The Ambassadors programme is a ‘bridging’ programme that was developed from the Felden Good Relations Plan. Bridging events and programmes are delivered to the wider community to encourage a range of good relations outcomes which relate to health and wellbeing, education and training. Felden in Newtownabbey is one of Clanmil’s shared housing developments and was established in 2016 as part of the NI Executive Together: Building A United Community Strategy.

The Ambassadors programme is supported through the NI Executive Together: Building A United Community Strategy, which reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society. The Felden shared housing development is also supported by the Department for Communities and the NI Housing Executive.

£6.03m funding was invested in the scheme’s development and the roll out of the associated five-year Good Relations Plan. Clanmil continues to work in partnership with the Felden local Advisory Group and residents to develop the Good Relations Plan, which seeks to build good relationships and a sustainable community.

Gerard Rosato of Clanmil with Sport Changes Life coaches Scott and Grace along with Chloe, Ashton and Aimee. 

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