24 March 2021

The Positive Learning project, based in Derry/Londonderry, provides vocational training to people who find themselves on the margins of society, including those who are homeless; have been involved with the criminal justice sector; are long-term unemployed; or who are refugees.

Central to the project’s work is that people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds are brought together in the programme with a view to improving good relations.

The three-year project – which today marked the formal conclusion of its activities with a special online celebration event - has been supported through €1.8m of funding from the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (www.seupb.eu), with matched-funding for the project provided by The Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in the Republic of Ireland.

Since its launch in June 2018, the project has achieved a number of notable successes in helping to build good relations and create safer communities, as well as offering and encouraging positive life choices for those taking part.

Key achievements from the programme include:

  • A total of 280 people who have engaged with the programme
  • 190 of these have completed their OCN qualifications in Good Relations
  • 132 programme participants have achieved vocational qualifications in areas including Catering, IT, Joinery, Plumbing and Horticulture.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The Executive Office is proud to have supported the Positive Learning programme, which has engaged with 280 people from diverse backgrounds, achieving life-changing outcomes.

“I commend all of those who have taken part in the project and made the positive choice to invest in their future. They have developed new skills and acquired qualifications which are of value not just to themselves, but to their community. This programme makes an important contribution to the Executive’s vision for Northern Ireland as a place which is united, shared and safe.

“I would like to congratulate Extern and its partners for the successful delivery of this project over the last three years.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Extern’s Positive Learning programme has been transformative for hundreds of people in the north west. Over the last three years, it has given people across Derry, Donegal, and Tyrone, fantastic opportunities to develop valuable skills and supported them to become active, integrated members of society. The programme has also had a real focus on building good relations and creating a united society. We are delighted that The Executive Office has been able to support this PEACE IV programme, which will have a lasting positive impact for participants, their families and the wider community.

“I would like to offer my congratulations to all those involved in delivering the Positive Learning project, and especially to all those who took part.”

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, said: “I would like to congratulate all the partners involved in this cross-border partnership and also all those who participated in this EU PEACE IV-funded project.

“This project, the first of its kind in the North West region, has reached out to those most vulnerable, isolated and marginalised in society to improve their lives.

“I have no doubt that the benefits of this project in building good relations and creating safer communities will continue to be felt long into the future.”

Danny McQuillan, CEO (interim) of Extern, said: “We are delighted with the outcomes which have been achieved by our Positive Learning project, both in the opportunities it has given to participants in order to transform their lives, and in the contribution it has made to building good relations within our communities. Extern prides itself on supporting the most vulnerable and isolated in our society, and it is through the exceptional work of projects like Positive Learning that we are able to realise this goal.

“We are only able to help people to make such positive changes in their lives through strong working partnerships, and I would like to thank the Special EU Programmes Body for their support for our work, and our partner TIDES Training, as well as the project’s match-funders in The Executive Office and the Department of Rural and Community Development."

I also pay tribute to the many partner agencies with whom we have worked over the past three years in order to make Positive Learning such a success. Extern remains committed to delivering our life-changing services in the North West region and we look forward to bringing further projects on stream in the near future.”

Underlining the importance of the project Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive of the SEUPB, said: “Many vulnerable sections of our society, as a long term result of the troubles/conflict have become increasingly marginalised, with limited access to the help and support they need to improve their lives. Many members of new communities and refugees also experience hostility and mistrust on a daily basis, which prevents them from fully integrating into their local neighbourhoods.

“This extremely worthwhile cross-border EU PEACE IV-funded project has helped to tackle these difficult issues directly. It has provided excellent vocational and good relations training to its participants, alongside a sense of hope, encouragement and purpose. I would like to express my sincere admiration for everyone involved as they move forward with the skills and confidence they need to become active citizens,” she continued.