Spirit of Enniskillen prospering 25 years after Gordon Wilson's inspirational words
Published: 18 Oct 2012 13:000 comments
Mrs. Joan Wilson, who attended a special presentation by young people who have been on the international exchange programme this summer, in the Clinton Centre, Enniskillen on Sunday, said Gordon would have been delighted at how the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust has developed over the years.
The Trust now promotes three programmes for young people, the Explore programme for international exchange and leadership, Future Voices which promotes volunteering and participation and Together, a shared education programme for post-primary schools.
At the special event held on Sunday at the Clinton Centre, established to promote peace and reconciliation on the site of the Enniskillen bomb, 40 young people from around Northern Ireland, their parents and friends congregated to hear the experiences of the young people in places such as Berlin, South of France and Sweden where they encountered issues facing immigrants and the integration of religious groups in society.
Mrs. Joan Wilson added,"It was Gordon's joy that young people would have the opportunity to go to other countries and to experience this. She said Chuck Richardson was inspiring as the leader of the Trust but now Michael Arlow was carrying that on. I had a visit recently to the Gordon Wilson Centre with one of my daughters and grandchildren and it's thrilling to see what they've done. It gives me great delight to have someone like Janet(McCusker) from Fermanagh helping to lead the programme."
Janet McCusker, originally from Fermanagh and now International Officer for the Explore programme, explained how she was just a toddler when the Enniskillen bomb occurred.
While studying at Queen's University, Belfast, Janet went to America and became involved in the Future Voices volunteering programme. She then became a young leader with groups to America and Cyprus for the Explore programme aimed at 16-19-year-olds.
Subsequently she was appointed International Officer to run that aspect of the organisation.
"It's a great job to have."
"We have 120 volunteers working for us on a regular basis. I'm involved in the selection of young people, looking at advertising and seeing the programme through.
Based at the Gordon Wilson Centre at Malone Road, Belfast with the other permanent staff members, Janet explained how the young people selected take part in residential weekends, mostly at the Share Centre, Lisnaskea, where they look at developing leadership skills.
"The Spirit of Enniskillen Trust has a strong international reputation and many organisations would seek us out," she said.
The Trust works in various countries where there are challenges in society such as division, immigration problems, refugees and religious problems.
Michael Arlow, the Director of the Trust for the past one and a half years, says the organisation is staffed by a few full-time staff and 120 volunteers on the three programmes offered.; Explore, which provides travel opportunities, Together, the schools programme Future Voices which develops peer facilitation.
"This weekend we are reviewing the experiences and a presentation is put on for parents," he said.
One of the main funding bodies is the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Republic and they were represented at Sunday's event by Brian Cahalane and Conor O'Riordan.
"Our focus is on young people on their energy and their desire to lead and to a shared future," he said adding that the decision to host the presentation event at the Clinton Centre on the 25th anniversary of the Enniskillen bomb was a symbolic gesture.
"It's very good that Joan Wilson is here today This is our 24th year of the international programme and next year will be our big anniversary
Dr. Denis Stuart, Chairman of the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust, has been involved in a career in education both in Northern Ireland and in Britain and was keen to become involved in the voluntary sector.
He said, as a Director of the Trust initially, he was moved to become further involved after witnessing the work of young people during a residential weekend at the Share Centre, Lisnaskea last year.
"I was inspired," he said, explaining that each year they not only record and honour the past but help to shape the future. It was with young people such as those involved in the Explore programme that he said helped the Trust shape the future.
And there was always demand for places. This year, there were over 100 applicants for the 40 places on Explore which took young people from all backgrounds, Protestants and Catholics, from both genders and from a mix of academic and non-academic backgrounds to places such as Sweden, South of France, Berlin where immigration and cultural difference are challenges for communities there.
Four young people from Fermanagh were among the 40 who took part in this year's Explore programme; Michael Richmond who travelled to Berlin, Ashley Robinson, who travelled to the South of France, Donnchadh Tierney, who was in Sweden and Jillian Ellis, who was also in Berlin.