Although the YMCA organisation has changed considerably since it was founded 160 years ago, the focus of its work has remained on youth development.
In 2006 the Fund agreed to provide £1.1 million towards a £2 million regeneration of Greenhill YMCA’s residential training and outdoor education facility, enabling it to create enhanced resource rooms, improve accommodation and widen its client base.
The new facilities opened in July 2010, helping Greenhill YMCA broaden the reach of its peace and reconciliation work and its involvement with local groups in line with its community relations strategies which are designed to tackle the effects of segregation and contested space.
The Fund believes this project represents precisely the type of sustainable peace building work which the Leaving a Legacy Programme aims to support.
Over 8,000 young people and adults now visit the organisation’s centre in Newcastle, County Down each year to take part in a wide variety of programmes, workshops and residential courses, many of whom benefit from the YMCA’s community relations ethos and activities.
Kenny Baxter, Centre Director, says: “The new centre has laid down a foundation for Greenhill YMCA’s work and given us a strong foothold for the future. We are fully committed to building a society where young people share and learn together, develop mutual respect, and can live free of fear and sectarianism.
“Previously some courses had to be held at hotels and conference centres due to lack of space. The upgrade in facilities has allowed us to operate these courses on site which affords us economies of scale both in terms of hire costs and staff costs and makes our work sustainable in the long-term.
“We have also been able to extend the type of work that we do. The construction of contained and shared residential accommodation has enabled us to offer young people a wider variety of residential courses for longer periods of time.”
Kenny adds: “We like to think of ourselves as peace-builders who strive through our work to break down the barriers that exist in young people as a result of the Troubles. These new buildings stand as a testimony to that effort and to the International Fund for Ireland’s commitment to establishing peace on the island of Ireland. This development will ensure we carry on our work for the next generation as we continue to build ‘wider horizons’ physically, mentally and spiritually.”