Extern is celebrating, in partnership with Verbal (the principal arts organisation on the island of Ireland for literature and storytelling) the success of a unique cross-border project which has helped over 750 vulnerable and marginalised children and young people to obtain life-changing qualifications and develop positive cross-community relationships. 

The Third Space project has positively transformed the lives of young people aged between 14-24, who identified as being vulnerable and at risk, and allowed those from different communities, cultural, religious backgrounds and rural areas, to undertake a personalised self-development and training programme. 

The project has been supported through €3.99m of funding from the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland, and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Ireland. 

Since launching in 2018, the project has achieved a number of notable successes in helping to build good relations and offer positive life experiences for the young people taking part across three main sites in Belfast, Derry-Londonderry and the South-West. This included continued frontline delivery of services throughout the recent lockdowns stemming from the Coronavirus pandemic.  

Key achievements from the programme include: 

  • More than 750 young people who have completed the programme to date 
  • 90% of those who completed the programme have received OCN qualifications 
  • Over 1,500 hours of specialised group work delivered to young people 

Minister for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman said: “The Third Space Project provided space for young people from different backgrounds and communities to come together to learn from one another, to build good relationships and develop a strong sense of community in a youth centred and creative way. I am confident that the experience gained through participation in this project will benefit those young people hugely as they move through their lives.  

“The success of the project is a testament to the hard work and dedication shown by both the young people and the partner organisations who delivered the project. I would like to commend all of those involved.” 

Recognising the impact of the project, Gina McIntyre CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body said: “Unfortunately, as a result of our shared past and continuing high levels of segregation, between communities, many of our children and young people feel marginalised and excluded by society. 

“The EU PEACE IV Programme was specifically designed to help address this by supporting a number of cross-community, youth development projects that offer opportunities for young people to mix with and learn from each other. 

“The Third Space project is delivering upon this vital work by helping to build the confidence and resilience of many vulnerable young people in order to create a more cohesive society. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the project, particularly their efforts to keep it going at the height of the pandemic,” she continued. 

Danny McQuillan, CEO of Extern, said: “We are so proud of what has been achieved by the hundreds of young people who have been supported through the Third Space programme. Not only have they been able to develop new skills and gain qualifications, they have also been given invaluable opportunities to build good relationships with other young people from different community backgrounds. 

“So much of this success is down to the strong relationships we have built, and I thank our delivery partners Verbal for their support in making this project such a   great success. I would also like to thank the Special EU Programmes Body for their support for our work, as well as the project’s match-funders in the Department for the Economy, and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.” 

James Kerr, CEO of Verbal, said: “This has been an extraordinary journey that has involved so many special young people who have contributed so much to the development of a new region. The creativity, determination, talent and resilience of the young people has continuously shone through what has been a difficult and challenging time. 

“I want to thank the SEUPB for supporting this project as we endeavoured to develop a new model of creative youth practice. It is never easy to innovate and it is the sustained support of all the project partners which has been required to reach this final event. I want to thank Extern for seeing the potential in our original vision and commend all of the staff past and present who participated in making Third Space a reality for so many fantastic young people.”