Strathfoyle teenager receives award for inclusively work

Strathfoyle teenager Mischa Tracey, 14, has won the Young Rural Volunteer Award 2021 for her hard work on making Strathfoyle more inclusive for young people with disabilities.

Mischa, who is a wheelchair user, met with the local council to campaign for inclusive play equipment for young people with disabilities to be installed in Strathfoyle play park. As a result, funding was secured for the project.

Mischa also met local councillors, MLAs and Play Board NI and created a video to raise awareness of her campaign called ‘Nothing Without Us’. She was presented with a new Apple iPad at the Housing Executive’s Rural Community Awards 2021 for her work.

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Mischa is a member of Enagh Youth Forum, who were also awarded the Cleaner and Greener Award 2021 and a prize of £1,000.

WELL DONE MISCHA! - The Housing Executive's Matthew McCay presents 14 years-old Mischa Tracey with her prize, a new Apple iPad, for winning the Young Rural Volunteer Award 2021 at Enagh Youth Forum, Strathfoyle, Derry on Thursday afternoon last. Mischa is the first winner of the new category aimed at young people. Included at front is David Lavery. Back from left are Michael Cooke, Housing Executive, Kaid Callaghan, Holly Hunter and Zara Doherty. The competition gave rural communities and their local groups the chance to showcase the range of activities they are involved with, helping to keep their areas vibrant and attractive places to live. Included kneeling at front from left are Oliver Wroniak, Kaid Callaghan, Zara Doherty and Patrick Dixon. Standing back from left, Paul Hughes, David Lavery, Matthew McCay, Rural and Regeneration Unit, Housing Executive, Holly Hunter, Eamon Oâ€TMDonnell and Claire Tracey. (Photos: Jim McCafferty Photography)

The Cleaner and Greener awards recognise the young people’s efforts in protecting and enhancing their built and natural environment and promoting sustainability.

Enagh Youth Forum has been involved with community clear-ups and litter-picking, graffiti removal and conservation projects.

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Eddie Doherty, the Housing Executive’s West Area Manager, congratulated Mischa and the community group on their achievements.

“Enagh Youth Forum has had a hugely positive impact on this community and has inspired and encouraged others to take pride in their environment.

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Mischa showing the Housing Executive's Matthew McCay, Rural and Regeneration Unit where the proposed changes for inclusive play equipment for young people with disabilities will be installed in Strathfoyle Play Park.Included are fellow volunteers Holly Hunter and Kaid Callaghan.

“A big well done to Mischa on her award! She deserves this recognition due to her outstanding volunteering work. Her success is all the more impressive because of her youth. Both she and the other young people in the forum are a credit to their community,”

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Paul Hughes, a youth and community development officer with the forum, said: “We are delighted that our hard-work teams have been recognised. These young people have achieved so much and we are very proud of them.

“We have been trying to get young people to clean up the area and we have been amazed at how they have come together and are taking such a pride in their achievements. We started by making window boxes and bird boxes for the elderly and then became more ambitious.

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“We’ve planted a local community garden with support from the local Tiny Tots Community Play Group, and have a quarterly clean-up around Enagh Lough, learning about swans, ecosystems, plastics and water pollution. We’ve also planted a couple of hundred native trees around the lough,” he said.

“One of the stand-out projects is the new greenway that we helped campaign for; work on this will be finished by August and will link Strathfoyle to the city. We are encouraging young people to take their cycling proficiency training so they can make the best of this new facility which, when completed, will be transformational for the local area and the wider city and district.

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“It will promote active travel and greatly improve health and wellbeing. Big thanks to the council’s greenways team who are busy working hard on getting this project to the construction stage,” he said.

“The other project is the playground equipment campaign led by Mischa with help from her friends Holly Hunter and Caid Callaghan. Not only did they get the new equipment but have asked the council to change their policy so that this equipment is considered for all other parks in the future. “The difference these schemes will make to the lives of other people is tremendous and it has spurred us on to see what other projects we can do.”

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For more information, click online at nihe.gov.uk.