A group of young people from Newtownabbey and North Belfast recently received a national citizen service qualification.
At the graduation event, which was held in Crumlin Road Gaol, the teens joined with more than 100 other young people from across Northern Ireland who had also gained the Northern Ireland National Citizen Service award.
At the ceremony the graduates were congratulated by the Minister for Social Development Mervyn Storey, presented with NCS and Millennium Volunteer certificates by NI commissioner for children and young people, Koulla Yiasouma, and given the opportunity to celebrate together.
The Newtownabbey team gave up their autumn half term holiday as well as numerous evenings and weekends to take part in the NI NCS programme, where they met other young people from different backgrounds, took on outdoor challenges and made a positive difference in their community.
The Newtownabbey team, led by Youthworks CIC came together with the group from North Belfast for their social action phases. The young people carried out research into issues which affected their local communities, before deciding to focus on the issue of mental health. They decided to focus on this issue as it is very prevalent. Professional mental health organisations spoke to the young people.
They then produced a leaflet about mental health issues which are affecting people in the region, and distributed 5,000 leaflets in the area.
Team leader, Patrick Hughes said: “In participating in NI NCS the young people have gained and developed new skills alongside teamwork skills. The young people have developed their communication skills all round and have started to learn how to best effectively engage others in conversation and to listen to others. The young people have been challenged by the activities in which they participated but more importantly they have challenged themselves throughout.”
Peace building charity Co-operation Ireland is the regional provider of NCS, leading a consortium of widely respected partners, including Volunteer Now, Start360, YouthAction NI, YMCA Belfast and Greenhill, St Columb’s Park House and YouthWorks CIC. Peter Sheridan, CEO of Co-operation Ireland said: “Providing opportunities for young people from all walks of life to meet and get to know one another is the cornerstone of a shared society. It encourages respect for the individual and an appreciation of the bigger picture.”
National Citizen Service is open to young people aged 15 to 17. To find out more about NCS visit www.ncsyes.co.uk.