The success of a cross-community sporting programme in Ballymena has been welcomed by the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim..
The event saw children from different religious backgrounds come together via the medium of basketball.
Councillor Billy Ashe said: “Mid and East Antrim Borough Council engaged PeacePlayers International Northern Ireland, a non-profit peace building organisation that uses basketball to change perceptions, to provide its innovative Basketball Twinning Programme to schools in the Ballymena area.
“Children from predominantly Roman Catholic maintained schools and predominantly Protestant controlled schools in Ballymena have explored culture and identity through a series of basketball activities and community relations lessons,” Cllr Ashe said.
Funding supplied by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the Borough’s own Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), means that children who normally wouldn’t have met, much less interacted with each other, were brought together to learn a new sport and to discuss difficult issues.
Gary Boyd, Community Sports Development Officer, Mid and East Antrim Borough added: “The curriculum developed by PeacePlayers encourages children to ask questions about the conflict that is taking place around them.
“It also gives them tools they can use to understand this conflict when they encounter it face-to-face. As a result they are better prepared to promote peace in their part of the community,” he said.
The project enters its final phase in January 2016 and by then over 600 children will have participated and benefited from the programme.
The schools taking part in the current programme included: Harryville Primary School, St. Mary’s Primary School Portglenone, St Brigid’s Primary School, Ballykeel Primary School, St Colmcille’s Primary School and Camphill Primary School.