It started with young people getting together to talk about the difficult topics of religion, interfaces and prejudice. That’s when Georgia Ramm realised she was part of something bigger that would change her life forever.
Georgia was part of the Journeys Programme by Springboard Opps, who are Core Funded by the Community Relations Council. The programme is designed to engage young people aged 14-24 from diverse communities within the Greater Belfast area.
And following the successful completion of the course, Georgia has gone on to become a Programme mentor.
“I needed something that was going to help me develop personally and career-wise because I was lacking in confidence and direction in life,” she explained. “When the programme leaders started to facilitate conversations about religion, interfaces and prejudice is when I started to understand that getting people in a room to talk about these hard topics would bring us together and make us think about something we didn’t think about previously.”
The programme challenged Georgia to consider what kind of future she wanted for herself, the community, and the city.
“We did a lot of work around religion and culture,” she said about group work within the programme. “We talked about our values which gave us more of an idea about each other, but the main principle of the programme was about respect, so you could say anything but everyone had to respect each other, which I think is a really powerful way to connect with people.”
Setting goals at the beginning of the programme and reviewing them throughout helped Georgia grow as well as take stock of progress.
She said: “It helped me to live at my own pace and that my beliefs were okay to have because they were a result of my experience, but if I wanted to change them and be happier with myself I could. It helped me to trust myself and look towards my future in a positive way and that I was capable of what I wanted to achieve.”
Getting out of her comfort zone has helped Georgia gain greater confident.
“I feel more confident in a lot more situations now,” she said. “I gained loads of qualifications and got the opportunity to do more when I finished, which helped me gain more confidence that I could achieve something academically.”
And this confidence has influenced personal growth too.
“Because I was able to be myself and felt like I had people who wanted me to succeed and that I could trust, I started to gain more confidence than I ever had,” she said. “I became more connected to my community, family and friends. And myself!”
Georgia has one important piece of final advice about the Journeys Programme:
“Do it,” she said. “You have nothing to lose and only something to gain.”
The Journeys programme began in 2017, and 2021 sees them enter the fourth year of delivery. Over 400 young people in the Greater Belfast area have taken part. The cross-community programme engages marginalised young people with the aim of developing a respect for diversity.
Julie Burgess, with Springboard Opps, has been involved in the project from the start.
“Without doubt one of the main successes with the Journeys programme was the cross border, cross community Journeys camp residential,” Julie said. “This experience allowed young people from Cavan, Monaghan, Limavady and Belfast to come together, build friendships and learn about each other’s communities. The young people have built lasting relationships over the 6 months by partaking in activities that helped their self-belief flourish, work together and give back to their community.”
The programme uses group learning, one to one learning, and provides opportunities to get involved within the community.
“Journeys provides an opportunity for young people to grow, be challenged, be supported and realise their self-worth in a safe environment,” Julie said. “Such provision is vital for young people growing up in Belfast to ensure that we as a community have the best future. One in which young people are aware of their strength, have resilience and know they are valued.
To find out more about the Journeys Programme and take part, contact Julie Burgess by email on email@example.com