The Summer in the City Project was funded by the Belfast City Council's Good Relations Grant, and provided relationship building opportunities for young people from our Botanic, Braniel and Milltown groups.
Crawfordsburn walk to Bangor
THE difference we made
36 out 41 participants indicated that they had an improved attitude towards those from another community background as a result of the project;
At the end of the project, 32 out of 41 participants indicated that they had a desire to develop their relationship with those from another community background
10 out of 15 Roma participants indicated that they now feel safe going to areas in South and East Belfast that they would not normally travel to.
By the end of the project, 16 out of 26 Northern Irish participants indicated that they felt the culture and traditions of Roma community adds to the richness and diversity of Northern Ireland Society
A significant challenge that Roma young people face is the problem of over-crowded houses. With little space to themselves, young people appreciated the opportunities that this project provided in getting them out of the city centre and out into the open air with space to play.
This was an excellent project, which improved relations between young people from the Roma community and Belfast/Northern Irish young people. Through the project, young people from our Botanic Dreamscheme group had multiple opportunities to build relationships with young people from other Dreamscheme groups in south and east Belfast. Young people from all backgrounds were included and the vast majority gave positive feedback about the activities. The young people mixed well, working together in football games, talking together during outdoor walks and making fun memories together on the various trips. The majority of boys from Milltown estate held very negative about the Roma people at the start of the project, with staff hearing them use derogatory language. However, through the football activities, young people were encouraged to get involved in the project, and most of the boys were surprised at how well they got on with the Roma boys. After the first few sessions, the boys talked together about football and music and movies while eating pizza, after the football games. Staff observed a reduction in derogatory language and increased respect between the groups. At the end of the project, Darius (aged 12) reflected on the difference the shared social activities have made: “I think the Irish people respect us now.”
Dreamscheme staff also observed the eagerness of Roma young people to meet teenagers from across Belfast—to build long-term relationships with other young people from their new hometown. Almost all participants from Braniel and Milltown showed an improvement in their attitude and respect towards Roma young people, with participants giving feedback such as: "The Roma group are actually really fun!", "When can we play football with them again?"
By the end of the project, it was interesting and encouraging to see some of the Northern Irish young people choose to leave their peers and instead join the Roma young people for outdoor activities at Todd's Leap. This move from staying safe with peer groups to joining the different group of young people showed the clear progress made in terms of respect and genuine relationship-building.
One participant, Florin (aged 13), summed up his favourite thing about one of the project day trips: “I like to stay on the bus a long time and go to places far from Belfast. I like to see everything—the cars, the houses, the water, the fields—and then I like to sleep on the bus!” We also found that the beach trip, walks in the forest and other outdoor activities are the highlights of the year for Roma young people who live in overcrowded, inner city houses.
The project proved to us that simple, fun, shared activities and day trips are a very effective way of building relationships across communities. We plan to build on this project by creating more opportunities for relationship-building with the same groups of young people in 2019.