Two years ago, in a move to tackle racism and segragation issues, a unique project was set up by the Waterside Area partnership.
Since then, the Waterside Links project, run by community liaison officer Louise Moore, has gone from strength to strength and has a dedicated membership of around 75 people.
Thanks to the initiative, those involved are getting to enjoy cultural experiences they might never have had the chance to do otherwise. That, in essence, is at the very core of what Waterside Links is about, according to organiser Louise.
“Basically, the overall aim at the start was to bring protestants and catholics and ethnic minorities together to learn more about each other’s different cultures and backgrounds,” she explains.
“From that we formed Waterside Links and our members meet every month when we have a day out exploring different cultures and histories. For us, the most important aspect is keeping the trips that we organise neutral. For example at a point we took the group out to the Apprentice Boys Hall but to balance it out we also took a trip to the Free Derry Museum. We’ve also visited the Falls and Shankill roads.
“It’s about giving people a chance to understand each other’s backgrounds,” says Louise.
The group’s most recent excursion was a visit to St Patrick’s grave in Downpatrick. Louise says she’s been thrilled to date with the positive response from those who’ve become involved.
“Great relationships have been formed and we’ve all become great friends,” she says.
“The feedback to the trips we’ve been on has been really positive and it’s amazing to see people from such different backgrounds sitting down together and forming friendships.”
The group are currently involved in a project which will see them gather their childhood memories for a new book and will hold their annual festival in the Waterside in July. As well as these events, they organise tea dances locally on a regular basis.
For Louise, the project has become a labour of love.
“I get so much from working with all our members,” she says.
“I learn so much from them and it’s great being able to watch them get so much enjoyment out of our trips. Also, because it’s an older group, Waterside Links is a fantastic way for people who have been widowed or who find it hard to socialise to come together.”
Louise is encouraging anyone in the Waterside who feels they would enjoy the activities at Waterside Links to come along.
“It is a great way for people to get together and everyone who takes part in our trips has a great time. We’re open to everyone who lives within the remit of the Waterside and it’s about learning from one another’s different backgrounds and making great friends in the process.”
For more information, contact Louise at the Waterside Area Partnership on 028 713 49594 or email her at email@example.com.
The Waterside Links project is funded by Peace III.