Our connections with Northern Ireland remain strong in 2024, evidenced by two recent visits, and it’s not even the end of February yet! Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting Mid-Ulster Youth Voice, a group of young advocates from various areas including Dungannon, Magherafelt, and Cookstown, all focused on improving employment, transportation, and community safety. Twelve young people aged 16-18, along with three staff members, participated in our Safe and Sound event at the Curve. The following day, they enjoyed a sightseeing trip to London, and on their final day, they explored Slough, participated in our Global Grub project, and engaged in icebreaking activities with local youth. The experience was enriching for all involved as they bonded and learned from one another.

This week, we are fortunate to host staff from Springboard, Belfast, and young people from Roe Valley Residents Association, thanks to a visit facilitated by Belong, the national cohesion network. They were particularly interested in our approach to cohesion work, and our young volunteers shared some of the strategies we’ve developed for bringing people together, both in educational settings and the community.

Capturing the learning and joy of these gatherings can be challenging, but a podcast recorded in 2020 provides some insight. Featuring young people from Together As One (formerly Aik Saath), Long Tower Youth Club, and Our Streets (Derry Londonderry), the recording offers a glimpse into their lives, covering topics such as youth violence, faith, substance use, and mental health. In just 23 minutes, listeners can hear them compare and contrast their experiences, highlighting the value of providing opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to share their lives with each other.