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Building peace through music in Northern Ireland

Presentation Sister  Mary Turley has over a number of decades served the Flax Trust as a founding director. Besides supporting the work of a Housing Association that builds houses for both communities, the Flax Trust has financed Ulster Community Investment Trust for the purpose of supporting Socio-Economic activity in both communities in Northern Ireland. The Flax Trust has also developed the School of Social Entrepreneurs of Ireland which promotes leadership in both communities in Northern Ireland through graduate programmes.

 

More recently, the Mission of Flax Trust has expanded to include the Inter-community School Choirs Award (FISCA)  so as to encourage trust and mutual respect between divided communities.  The choral work has the aims of breaking down barriers and prejudice and of  providing a safe and neutral environment. It  enables children to have a positive integrated experience that will impact on a personal, school and community level.

The transformative power of music has opened the door to even greater transformative initiatives, for example the local knitting group are helping to  make costumes for choir performances; while those with hair and makeup skills have  enrolled in training course to assist with the production of musicals.  Another young woman with an interest in stage props is undertaking an apprenticeship to further her interest.

Musical involvement has many benefits – it keeps children off the streets and gives them a new interest, which will stand to them throughout life.  The friendships made will stand strong and can to lead to other shared recreation such as outings and cinema trips. Musical involvement also encourages positive self-esteem and confidence and  improves mental health.  Those who previously may have had no reason  to come out of their homes can use involvement in a choir to build their social lives.

The transformation can truly be unbelievable.  As one participant has said about being in a cross-community choir: “It was one of the best forms of therapy that I have received and I wouldn’t have been able to receive it without this project. It allowed me to heal.”

 

For more information see www.flaxtrust.com

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