Our Lives, Our Legacy – youth showcase with Springboard Opportunities

Young people sharing a stage | NICRC

Young people from a Belfast-based youth project shared the positive legacy they want to convey to future generations through the “Our Lives, Our Legacy” showcase.

Directions, which is a part of Springboard Opportunities, organised this unique event. Springboard Opportunities is supported through the Community Relations Council's Core Funding Scheme. The project was funded by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) Personal Youth Development Programme (PYDP).

Many of the participants on the Directions PYDP project are from a range of challenging backgrounds, which include paramilitary recruitment, anti-social activity, dealings with the criminal justice system, substance abuse, poor mental health, and a mistrust of statutory institutions.

The Directions Project supports young people on a range of issues to help them develop life skills that foster good relations, while building confidence and resilience, which should ultimately make them more employable.

Cultural identity

The event, held at New City Life, examined themes of cultural identity and how the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland continues to impact young people from disadvantaged communities. Young people shared their journey towards a more positive contribution to society, as well as the future legacy they wish to create.

IFI Chairman, Paddy Harte, recognises that the “legacy of The Troubles continues to impact many communities” and that it’s important to put “discussions around identity” at the forefront of meaningful peace and reconciliation.

Paddy said: “Our PYDP projects provide a uniquely tailored support programme giving young people the means to change the direction of their lives and make a positive contribution to their communities.”

The project is currently working with 16 young people who have completed courses, accreditations, and employment. Through the support of Directions, they have increased self-confidence, emotional resilience and have explored how they can contribute positively to their local communities with the new skills they have acquired. 

Sam McCaw, Project Coordinator, said: “PYDP projects are instrumental in creating a space where young people from divided communities can come together and create a shared future. The ‘Our Lives, Our Legacy’ event was an opportunity for the young people to showcase their learning and the impact the programme has had on them."

Participant's story

“I’m so thankful for this programme. It has given me so many opportunities.”

“Kirsty” is a 24-year-old female who grew up in a Unionist community in Bangor. Kirsty’s name has been changed to protect her identity. From a young age Kirsty was a habitual substance user who battled to overcome her addiction. She faced difficult challenges as a teenager, presenting as homeless at 17-years-old and moving into a supported living site with other young people who were also dealing with complex issues. Kirsty states that this environment seen her addiction escalate and caused her to further get involved in risk- taking behaviours.

Kirsty, who has since moved to Belfast, came to the Directions programme to build on her self- belief and confidence and make more positive changes in her life. From the outset Kirsty was extremely apprehensive about attending a group with new people and stated that she did not feel capable. However, with support of the Directions team, Kirsty pushed herself outside her comfort zone and embraced the programme’s opportunities.

Despite all these personal challenges, Kirsty has now successfully achieved her NOCN level 2 in Youth Work, planning and facilitating workshops and even becoming a key member of Springboards Youth Advisory group.