Asda Foundation Donates £600,000 to Support ‘At Risk’ Youth across NI
Asda Northern Ireland has revealed the details of a funding package close to £600,000 which, over the next three years, will support some of the most vulnerable and ‘at risk’ young people in the region.
The donation from the Asda Foundation – the largest provided to a local charity or group to date –extends Asda’s partnership with sport for development charity, Active Communities Network, and aims to support youth outreach into areas with high social deprivation, delivering clear progression pathways into citizenship and employment.
Active Communities Network has been operating in Northern Ireland since 2009 promoting personal, social and community development for young people through involvement in sport, physical activity, arts and culture. The partnership with Asda first began in early 2014 following an initial donation of £58,000 and was accompanied by a trial outreach programme in the areas of North and West Belfast - supported locally by both the Asda Shore Road and Asda Westwood stores.
The partnership has seen over 500 young people in Belfast engage with sport and youth programming to date, with many receiving accredited training and qualifications in citizenship and volunteering. Nearly a quarter of those who have participated in the programme have also gone on to access apprenticeship schemes and work placements.
As part of this new phase of activity, Active Communities Network will open hubs in Coleraine, Omagh and Portadown and work alongside the Community Life Champions (CLCs) at each of Asda’s 17 stores in NI* to run outreach programmes across the region. The Asda colleagues will undergo training enabling them to provide support by mentoring young people, shadowing them during sport and youth work as well as offering them work placement opportunities. It is expected that over 1,500 young people will engage with and be supported by this programme annually over the three years.
The announcement was made at an event held at Stormont in Belfast, hosted by the First Minister, Peter Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MLA.
First Minister Peter Robinson said, “I welcome today’s funding announcement of almost £600,000 by the Asda Foundation to Active Communities Network.
“This is a significant donation which demonstrates the strong commitment of Asda to their local communities across Northern Ireland. This generous act of corporate and social responsibility will offer many thousands of young people the opportunity to improve their lives.
“This funding which enables the opening of these further three hubs right across Northern Ireland will undoubtedly help tackle youth unemployment through sport and outreach and will enable a further 1,500 young people annually to take part in programmes over the next three years.
“The Executive’s Together: Building a United Community strategy has at its heart a commitment to improve community relations and continue Northern Ireland’s journey towards a more united, shared and reconciled society. It is through programmes such as this that we can bring about the changes needed for our children and young people in order to create shared and safe spaces. This donation will make a tangible difference to young people in Northern Ireland.”
The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “This donation of nearly £600,000 by Asda to advance the work of the Active Communities Network (ACN) shows their confidence in both the good work of the ACN, and in our young people.
“Life can be challenging for young people, and sometimes even more so if you growing up in areas affected by social and economic disadvantage. Through our Together: Building a United Community strategy, the Executive is committed to giving every child and young person the chance to fulfil their potential by creating a united community, based on equality of opportunity.
“The work of the ACN embraces that goal, using sport and outreach as a means to help young people build their confidence and make positive changes in their lives. This work is very much rooted in the community, and I am confident the new Hubs that can now be opened in Coleraine, Omagh and Portadown will achieve great things locally. I thank Asda for their contribution to this important work, and for all the support they provide through their Foundation.”
Julie Ward, Asda Foundation Manager, commented, “We’re thrilled that the Foundation is making its largest donation in NI to date and we’re incredibly proud to be able to support the roll out of this programme across the region.
“Over the next few weeks, our team of Community Life Champions will be trained in basic youth work skills and receive accredited training in ‘Using Sport to Tackle Youth Crime’ so that they are fully equipped with the skills necessary to work alongside Active Communities Network to deliver this programme in a meaningful way. We hope that over the coming years that this partnership will help to make a real difference to the lives of not only the young people who will take part but the wider communities in which they live right across Northern Ireland.”
Gary Stannett MBE, CEO, Active Communities Network said: “This extension of the Active Communities Network partnership with the Asda Foundation across Northern Ireland is a ground-breaking opportunity to make a long lasting, positive impact on the lives of young people.
“Over the last year our staff has worked with young people, volunteers and a range of community partners to deliver a fantastic programme of activity, personal development and training opportunities in North and West Belfast. Asda Foundation colleagues and CLC's have been a part of that development at every step of the way, and this extension is a massive endorsement of our work, and commitment to improving the lives of young people across Northern Ireland.”