Bellshill and Mossend YMCA is one of six Scottish projects which has been showcasing how youth work can help eradicate sectarianism.
At the Looking Forward Not Back (LFNB) National Conference in Stirling over 70 young people from across the country demonstrated how they are acting as agents of change in their own communities.
Projects have included hard hitting short films, campaigning in local supermarkets, workshops in schools, partnerships with radio stations and a human board game to answer the question ‘Can youth work tackle intra-Christian sectarianism?’.
Young people from Bellshill and Mossend YMCA created a poster campaign which they took into a local supermarket, to highlight what sectarianism means to young people and interviewed community members to examine the impact of sectarianism in their local area.
Elle Scott from Bellshill said: “I was nervous in the beginning to be involved with a project which discussed the divide between Catholic and Protestants and whether this actually connected to Celtic/Rangers.
“I have now learned so much more about what sectarianism is and also how to openly discuss this without having the nerves I had in the beginning.”
Debbie Gavan from Holytown, who is managing the project for Bellshill and Mossend YMCA, believes it has been a force for good within the local area.
She said: “This project has not only brought the community together, but has shown the local public that the young people we work with are not all ‘troublemaking neds’.
“Actually the community members fed back that they did not know that young people were so passionate and involved in making a difference in their community.”
Looking Forward Not Back is funded by the Scottish Government’s Community Safety Unit and administered by YouthLink Scotland.
Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP said: “I strongly believe that communities need to be at the heart of all of our work to tackle sectarianism.
“That is why the Scottish Government’s investment of £9 million over three years to tackle this insidious problem has had a strong focus on community-based projects which will both address people’s day-to-day experiences of sectarianism and improve our knowledge and understanding of the true nature and extent of sectarianism in modern Scotland.
“I am delighted that the Scottish Government has been able to support Youthlink’s ‘Looking Forward Not Back Project’, which has examined youth work’s effectiveness in tackling sectarianism.”
YouthLink Scotland chief executive Jim Sweeney welcomed this new research programme.
He said: “Youth work connects with young people in a more relaxed and individual approach, this approach has proved really successful in tackling youth unemployment, bullying, mental health and right across the spectrum of young people’s issues.
“Youth work has a vital role to play in helping to rid us of sectarian behaviour and this research being done by young people in Bellshill will help shape how we continue to play our part in this issue.”
Projects are also running in South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire, Stirling and Dumfries & Galloway with the findings due at the and of this month when they will be externally verified by the University of Dundee.