Yesterday, my Intercomm co-workers picked me up at Farset at 9am to go on an official visit to Stormont with them. Liam and John had an appointment to talk with the British Secretary of State Owen Patterson about a current grant project they were co-heading called the Joint Area Ardoyne Project. I was actually very excited that this would be the topic of conversation, as I’ve sat in on several of Intercomm’s meetings on the Joint Area project and so I have a fairly good sense of what the program entails. Essentially, the Joint Area project will bring together youth from Ardoyne (primarily a Catholic/Republican area) and the Shankill (a Protestant/Loyalist area) in leadership development program. There are about 15 different community workers who have thus far played vital roles in the development of this project, which aims to bring up young community leaders who can in turn mentor other young people. This program is, to me, both very exiciting in its scope (I love youth work) and also a vessel of hope. The future of Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole lies, of course, in the hands of its young people, who will soon rise up to take ownership of the social and political environment and the trajectory of the peace process. As my co-workers communicated to the Secretary of State in terms far more eloquent than I can here, this kind of program has the potential to really shape the future of peaceful relations in the region.
At Intercomm, which is in summary a non-profit organization that works primarily at interfaces between Catholic and Protestant communities and employs prominent community leaders from both backgrounds, I have been fortunate in the variety of peace work that I have witnessed. I have attended conferences, sat in on city council meetings, recorded minutes for community safety meetings, and now I’ve even met the Secretary of State! I’m starting to understand that reconciliation work must come both from the grassroots up and from the top down, from local residents and from statutory organizations. I’m so thankful that the range of experiences that my co-workers have made available to me have been so varied and so interesting, and I know that there will be more adventures to come.