YOUNG people from the Ballymena area have learned how to take up the reins of power to actively improve their community.
The Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) recently celebrated the completion of an ambitious project, funded by Lloyds TSB Foundation that enables young people to play a central role in improving their local area and positively engaging with authority.
Among the groups involved was Bann Maine West Youth Forum from Ballymena which was set up to work with young people in Ahoghill, Cloney, Cullybackey, Galgorm, Gracehill, Grange, Portglenone and Tullygarley.
The Partners in Power programme delivered training that fast forwards young people into key decision-making roles within a range of grass roots organisations.
The year-long project involved 170 young people and 89 adults from 16 organisations with £72,000 funding provided by Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland.
The Programme co-ordinator, Claire King, speaking at a special celebratory event at the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast, said the programme had instilled confidence and belief in the young people involved.
“For many of these young people it is a new experience to have someone valuing their opinions and believing they have a positive contribution to make. Through this programme they have shown that when given the opportunity they are keen to play an active role within their communities and organisations.
The programme provided the young people with training and education in key skills such as leadership, communication and organisational ability through a series of workshops and residentials.
During the evening, the NIYF unveiled a Resource Pack ‘Promoting the Voice of Young People’ which will help other organisations not involved in Partners in Power to encourage young people from their areas to become involved in decision-making.
Sandara Kelso-Robb, Executive Director of the Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland, paid tribute to everyone involved.
She said: “Partners in Power has been a great success. It has shown that young people are an important resource within communities and have a positive role to play. We would congratulate all of the young people who took part in this project.”
The programme aimed to increase the skills and capacity of organisations to involve young people in organisational decision-making and the skills and capacity of young people to take part in decision making with adults. This was carried out through a variety of training for management, staff and young people.
Training programmes varied from group to group depending on the needs and experience of each individual groups, with training in Youth Representation. Governance, Committee Skills, and Youth Democracy / Empowerment being delivered alongside workshops on programme planning and active listening skills.
For many groups this was their opportunity to be creative, and creative they were, whether it involved developing promotional material, producing training handbooks, producing DVD’s or planning events, the common theme was young people being active and productive within their communities and beyond.