Youth Link NI is the inter-church youth service for Northern Ireland, working together to develop excellence in youth work and ministry, and to promote equity, diversity and interdependence. It was originally the shared dream of four larger churches – Presbyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland – and was subsequently joined by the Religious Society of Friends and Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Their vision is of churches enabling young people and youth practitioners to be agents of transformation in a divided society.
Kairos is a Greek word for time, which Youth Link has adopted to suggest God’s time, a particular moment of opportunity that must be seized. The Kairos Project is built on the idea that the 21st century is such a moment, with new challenges and opportunities to enable young people and those who journey with them to be creative peacemakers of the future. It is a 'journey in understanding and building community' - a peer education programme working across communities, aimed at young people aged 16-18.
The project is broken down into three phases. Phase 1 involves preparatory work in groups within a community. Young people discuss how identity and culture is formed and explore their own tradition. They then go on to learn about other traditions, discuss fears and prejudices, and build confidence, trust and relationships within their groups.
The second phase works across communities. It involves trust- and relationship-building activities, work on communication skills, and teambuilding. Together, participants tackle questions including how to deal with conflict, explore difference, and move beyond racism and sectarianism. They also discuss faith and peacebuilding. In Phase 3, ‘Peace Builders’, the young people plan and implement a cross-community project together.
Youth Link at Summer Madness
This is a summer conference programme involving young people, Christian leaders, and politicians. As part of Youth Link’s overall work to contribute to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland, this project aims to get young people to come together for open discussions on provocative topics.
In the past, the programme has involved discussions such as:
- ‘Is it ever right to kill?’ – a discussion based on the World Trade Centre attacks of 9/11;
- ‘Where is God in North Belfast?’;
- ‘Grill the Bishop’;
- ‘Making your mark’ – a discussion about how to have an impact on politicians; and
- ‘No Man’s Land’ – an exploration of the meaning of belonging.
Education for Peace / Active Citizenship
Through this discussion group for young people, Youth Link aims to help young people contribute to reconciliation and peace building in Northern Ireland, by allowing them to explore Northern Ireland's history, and to develop skills for creating change.
Twenty young adults from varying backgrounds meet on alternate Monday nights to explore Northern Ireland’s political, religious and cultural diversity, and a Christian response to a divided society. Participants gain a qualification after spending 30 hours meeting on the programme, and 10 hours developing a portfolio. The programme is highly participative and enjoyable, and the young people are invited to help shape its course.
North and West Belfast Training Opportunity
To enable young people to contribute to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland, this project aims to enhance the opportunities available to them. The programme is accredited (through OCR and OCN), and although the broad content is predetermined, Youth Link aim to tailor the course to each group’s interests and needs. The course focuses on community relations to enhance participants’ understanding of what it means to live in a peaceful and inclusive society.
The project first began in 1998, then became formalised through the establishment of working groups in 2000. It aimed to improve youth work in Northern Ireland, supporting practitioners to develop their skills, and developing policy.
As part of Youth Link’s aim of helping young people contribute to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland, JEDI had the following twin aims:
- To develop a coherent strategy for community relations youth work, and education for citizenship; and
- To embed the interrelated principles of equity, diversity and interdependence into the ethos, policies and programmes of the youth sector.
JEDI was directed by a Steering Group. Working groups focused on four themes:
- The Policy Working Group oversaw a pilot of a new strategy development process, conducted by various statutory and voluntary organisations, to inform the whole sector;
- The Practice Working Group published guidelines for all those working on community relations, diversity, and active citizenship with young people. It compiled case studies, and stimulated dialogue about good practice;
- The Training Working Group mapped out existing training provision, and worked on developing a training strategy for the sector; and
- The Research and Evaluation Working Group conducted an audit and an evaluation framework for JEDI, and produced publications describing its work.